Smiths Longspur (Calcarius pictus)

Smiths Longspur

[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Calcariidae | [latin] Calcarius pictus | [UK] Smiths Longspur | [FR] Bruant de Smith | [DE] Smith-Spornammer | [ES] Escribano de Smith | [NL] Bonte IJsgors


Monotypic species

Physical charateristics

A buffy longspur; warm buff on entire underparts. Tail edged with white, as in Vesper Sparrow (no dark band at tip). Male, breeding: Deep buff; ear patch with a
i white spot, strikingly outlined by a black triangle. Female and winter: Less distinctive; buffish breast lightly streaked; some males may show a white shoulder.

Listen to the sound of Smiths Longspur

[audio: Longspur.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 25 cm wingspan max.: 28 cm
size min.: 15 cm size max.: 17 cm
incubation min.: 11 days incubation max.: 13 days
fledging min.: 11 days fledging max.: 12 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 3  
      eggs max.: 6  


North America : nw, nc


Prairies, fields, airports; in summer, tundra.
Breeds along treeline in the north, where stunted forest gives way to tundra, mainly in areas of grassy or sedgy tundra with scattered low shrubs and short conifers. Winters on shortgrass plains, heavily grazed pastures, airport fields.


Unusual breeding system. Breeds in small colonies, where males sing to attract females but do not defend territories. Both males and females are promiscuous; the young in a single nest are often of mixed parentage and may be fed by more than one male.

On ground on dry hummock of tundra, among grass clumps or near base of low shrub. Often sunken in shallow depression. Nest (built by female) is open cup of grass and sedges, lined with lichens, hair, and particularly with feathers (ptarmigan feathers esp
ecially favored).
Eggs: 4, sometimes 3-5, rarely 1-6. Pale tan to pale green, marked with lavender and dark brown. Incubation is by female only, 11-13 days.
Young: Fed by female and by one or more males. Young leave the nest about 7-9 days after hatching, unable to fly well for about another week. 1 brood per year.

Feeding habits

Mostly seeds and insects. Diet is mainly seeds for much of year, especially in w
inter, including seeds of weeds and grasses, also waste grain. Also eats insects, and these become major part of diet during breeding season; included are caterpillars, beetles, grasshoppers, flies, moths, damselflies, and others, as well as spiders and s
Behavior: Does all its foraging while walking or running on the ground. Except when nesting, usually forages in flocks.


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). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very 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.
Smiths Longspur status Least Concern


Northern Alaska to Hudson Bay. Winters south-central United States. Migration: Tends to migrate late in fall and early in spring; present on wintering areas mostly from November to March. Migrates in flocks.

Distribution map

Smiths Longspur distribution range map

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