Lapland Longspur

  Lapland Longspur, Photography by Mick Thompson

Lapland Longspur, Photography by Mick Thompson

The Lapland longspur breeds in the arctic and winters in the central United States, with populations into the millions overwintering on the Great Plains. Wisconsin longspurs have more modest groupings, but will flock in large groups in open areas of fields, prairies, and meadows, especially if manure has been recently spread.

Distinguished with a reddish wing patch and black patches on each cheek, the Lapland longspur's call, a bubbly chirp, can make it stand out in a drab field.

  Lapland Longspur camouflaged in the background, Photography by Kenneth Cole Schneider

Lapland Longspur camouflaged in the background, Photography by Kenneth Cole Schneider

The bird has adapted to a diet of seeds, as its beak can attest. While seed collectors at Faville Grove might be lucky to collect a bucket full of seed, Lapland longspurs are masterful seed collectors, especially given their size. A single bird can eat up to 10,000 seeds per day. They prefer seeds and waste grain while overwintering in Wisconsin.

With drab plumage while it spends time in Wisconsin, the longspurs largely go unnoticed while occupying this southern “tundra.” But these are very interesting birds. Researchers have investigated the circadian rhythms of longspurs, and demonstrated that the species is regulated by an internal circadian clock that cycles endogenously (from within the organism) throughout the constant daylight of the arctic summer. The mechanisms through which the species accomplishes this rhythm are not clear, but even in the never-ending daylight of an arctic summer, male birds sing in the morning at roughly the same time.

You can find Lapland longspurs throughout the Faville Grove Sanctuary in open areas and near agricultural fields. 

Written by Drew Harry, Faville Grove Land Steward