Lapland Longspur

Calcarius lapponicus
Range Map

We can find the Lapland Longspur breeding in the high Arctic tundra. They spend winters in open fields across much of the United States, southern Canada, and central Asia. These birds breed across the Arctic zones of Eurasia and North America.

Given the brevity of Arctic summers and the large expanses of the nesting grounds, courtship displays are extravagant. During the mating ritual the male arrives first, and will fly as much as 30 feet up and sing while gliding back to earth. Sometimes he will strut on the ground, pointing his bill skyward while singing. The females usually start nest building a few days after they arrive.

There are four species of longspurs in the world. They all are native to North America. This bird is the only member found on other continents, and they range across the entire Eurasian continent. So far, I’ve only met them once in the northern Yukon, while driving to Alaska in 2005.

Modern science recognises five subspecies of Lapland Longspur:

  • C. l. subcalcaratus breeds across the Canadian Arctic from the Mackenzie River, and east to Greenland. They spend winters across eastern North America west to Nebraska, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas.
  • C. l. alascensis breeds from the Mackenzie River west across Alaska and islands of the Bering Sea to eastern Russia on the Chukotski Peninsula.
  • C. l. coloratus breeds in Russia, and spends winters in China, Korea, and sometimes Japan.
  • C. l. kamtschaticus breeds on the Kamchatka Peninsula and the shores of the Sea of Okhotsk.
  • C. l. lapponicus breeds from central-eastern Russia and west to Norway.

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