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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Lapland Longspur -- Calcarius lapponicus

RANGE: Breeds from western and northern Alaska and northern Yukon across northern Canada, including many islands to Labrador, and south to south-coastal Alaska and southern Keewatin. Winters from coastal southern Alaska and southern British Columbia across the northern United States to Nova Scotia, and south to southeastern California, Colorado, Arkansas, and Maryland; casually farther south.

STATUS: Abundant on breeding grounds; local in interior.

HABITAT: Breeds in arctic and subarctic tundra, preferring areas of wide, moist tundra covered with grassy tussocks or hummocks and interspersed with ponds and streams. Inhabits moist sedge meadows, swampy flats, marshes, and moist grasslands, preferring sedge tussocks or ridges covered with low willows, or dwarf birch intermixed with heath. Avoids extremely wet areas unless elevated sites are available. In winter, found in stubble fields, barren grounds, beaches, prairies, or open weedy meadows.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Moist tundra on relatively level terrain with elevated sites such as tussocks, hummocks, or low ridges, and concealing vegetation.

NEST: Usually places nest in a depression in the side of a small hummock or tussock, protected by overhanging grass, sedge, or leafy twigs of shrubs. Uses drier, elevated sites for nesting rather than low, wet, surrounding terrain.

FOOD: In summer, eats mostly insects and the seeds of a variety of plants; in winter, feeds mainly on seeds of weeds and grasses. Gleans food from the ground.

REFERENCES: DeGraff et al. 1980, Jehl 1968, Williamson in Bent 1968c.

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