McCowns Longspur (Rhynchophanes mccownii)

McCowns Longspur

[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Calcariidae | [latin] Rhynchophanes mccownii | [UK] McCowns Longspur | [FR] Bruant a collier gris | [DE] McCown-Spornammer | [ES] Escribano de McCown | [NL] Mccowns IJsgors


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Calcarius mccownii
Rhynchophanes mccownii NA c to n Mexico

Physical charateristics

Male, breeding: Crown and patch on breast black, tail largely white. Hind-neck gray (brown or chestnut in other longspurs). Female and winter male:
Sparrowlike; note the tail pattern (an inverted T of black on white).

Listen to the sound of McCowns Longspur

[audio: Longspur.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 25 cm wingspan max.: 28 cm
size min.: 14 cm size max.: 16 cm
incubation min.: 11 days incubation max.: 12 days
fledging min.: 10 days fledging max.: 11 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 3  
      eggs max.: 6  


North America : Central


Plains, prairies. Breeds in rather dry open prairie with short grass, sometimes with patches of open ground or low cactus. Winters on similar shortgrass plains, also
on bare soil such as dry lake beds, plowed fields. At all seasons, favors shorter grass and more open ground than that chosen by Chestnut-collared Longspurs occurring in same region.


On nesting territory, male performs flight display, flying up to about 30′ and then sailing down, with wings outstretched and tail fanned, while singing. In courtship, male may circle female on ground, raising one wing high to show off white wing lining.

On open ground, usually placed very close to a large grass clump or weed, small shrub, dried cow manure, or other object. Nest is built by female in slight depression in ground, an open cup made mostly of grass, sometimes with weeds, rootlets, and lichen
s added, lined with fine grass, plant fibers, hair.
Eggs: 2-4, sometimes 5, perhaps rarely 6. White to pale olive, marked with brown and lavender. Incubation is by female only, about 12 days.
Young: Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave nest about 10 days after hatching; can run well but fly only poorly until a few days later.

Feeding habits

Mostly seeds and insects.
Seeds make up more than half of summer diet of adults, and most of winter diet; included are seeds of grasses, weeds, sedges, shrubs. Also eats many insects, especially in summer, including grasshoppers, caterpillars, ants, moths, and others. Young are f
ed mostly insects.
Behavior: For
ages while running and walking on ground, picking up items from soil or from plant stems. Will actively chase insects (such as grasshoppers) flushed from ground, sometimes pursuing them in short flights. Except during nesting season, usually forages in fl


This species has a very large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
McCowns Longspur status Least Concern


Prairies of south-central Canada, north-central United States. Winters southwestern United States to northern Mexico. Migration:
Migrates in flocks. Northward migration begins by early spring; southward migration spread over much of fall. Rarely strays west to Pacific Coast, accidental east of Great Plains.

Distribution map

McCowns Longspur distribution range map

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