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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

McCown's Longspur -- Calcarius mccownii

RANGE: Breeds from southeastern Alberta east to north-central North Dakota, and south to northeastern Colorado and northwestern Nebraska. Winters from central Arizona, west-central Kansas, and central Oklahoma south into Mexico.

STATUS: Uncommon.

HABITAT: Inhabits dry shortgrass prairie, plowed and stubble fields, grazed pastures, dry lake beds, and other sparse, bare, dry grounds on the western plains.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Open, dry, sparsely vegetated prairie.

NEST: Places nest in a shallow depression on the ground, sometimes in a clump of grass or under a shrub, but usually amid sparse prairie vegetation. Typically builds a nest that is open above, covered only by a few blades of grass, although occasionally it may be concealed by overhanging shrub branches. Rarely, places nest above ground in a shrub.

FOOD: Forages on the ground, picking up seeds of weeds and grasses, and insects, especially grasshoppers.

REFERENCES: DuBois 1937, Johnsgard 1979, Kaufman in Farrand 1983c, Kraus in Bent 1968c, Mickey 1943.

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