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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

Smith's Longspur -- Calcarius pictus

RANGE: Breeds in east-central Alaska and adjacent British Columbia, and from northern Alaska east across northern Canada to extreme northern Ontario. Migrates through the northern Great Plains. Winters from Kansas and Iowa south to Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisiana.

STATUS: Uncommon.

HABITAT: Inhabits dry, grassy, hummock areas in tundra, often where there are dry sedge meadows dominated by dwarf birch and scattered black spruce. Prefers areas with a perch site, often using small spruces. Winters in grassy and weedy fields, prairies, and along edges of open areas such as airport runways and roadways.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Small isolated trees in tundra areas for perches.

NEST: Builds a nest, commonly unprotected from above, in a small depression in a relatively dry, flat hummock, usually on a hummock ridge or at the base of a small tree or shrub.

FOOD: Eats a variety of foods during summer; largely plant material, principally seeds (90 percent in the first part of June.) Also eats invertebrates when available, including ants, spiders, and beetles. Commonly eats immature insects in the latter part of the summer.

REFERENCES: Jehl 1968.

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