By Ken Hooles, Daily Observer
Wednesday, February 3, 2016 11:54:22 EST AM
Over the past few weeks, our area has been experiencing a small inundation of Lapland Longspurs in the open fields, especially around the Cobden area. In fact, the other day, Rob Cunningham and I located at least three large flocks feeding along the rural roadsides. Normally, we only see a few of these birds in the spring and fall amongst large flocks of Snow Buntings and Horned Larks. While these birds are not rare for our area, you do not usually find them in flocks here.
The Lapland Longspur (Calcarius lapponicus) is commonly found in the fall and spring on barren snow-swept fields throughout Southern Canada and the North and central United States.
The Lapland Longspur in some ways resembles a House Sparrow in that it has a black crown, forehead, cheeks, throat and breast. However, unlike the House Sparrow, it has a reddish brown nape and a white stripe that extends from its eye to the side of its breast. It has whitish under- parts, and its outer two feathers on its tail are partly white and partly black.
The female Lapland Longspur is duller in colour with rufous wing coverts, and she has a bold, dark triangle that outlines her buffy ear patches.
In the summer, these birds are residents of our Northern tundra where they reside in pairs or small family groups in prairies, grassland, stubby fields, dune areas, and along shorelines. They forage for food on the ground and eat insects, spiders and seeds from grass and sedge. In the winter they eat mainly weed seeds.
The Lapland Longspur breeds in the Northern tundra. The male Longspur courts the female by singing and chasing the female on the ground. The male rises in front of the female who is on the ground, singing above her head and gliding back down with its wings and tail spread.