LAPLAND LONGSPUR – (Calcarius lapponicus)
The Lapland Longspur is a passerine with a conical bill, which indicates its diet as a seedeater. It measures around 15 cm (6 in.). The breeding male has a black face, throat, neck and crown, and a rufous patch on the nape. The back, wings and tail are brown with beige stripes. There is a white band along the black areas, and the flanks are dark brown to black. The under parts are light grey. The bill is yellow and the legs are grey. Females are mottled brown and their bill and legs are grey.
This species’ name refers to the region where the first individual was identified, and ‘longspur’ refers to the long rear claw of this bird. The Latin name ‘Calcarius’ also refers to its rear claw. Lapland longspurs are also called Lapland Buntings. Lapland longspurs use their long hind claw in walking and running on the ground where they forage for insects and seeds. They can eat thousands of flies in a single day. In the winter they can be found in grasslands or fields.
The lapland longspur does not breed on PEI, and is absent during the summer on the island. It breeds in the Arctic around the globe, and is found on PEI during the three other seasons while on migration. It is then uncommon to fairly common, depending on the years.
Conservation: during the winter Lapland longspurs can form huge flocks numbering in the millions. If they then hit human-built structures during a snowstorm thousands may get killed. Their population however appears stable, although not much is currently precisely known on their global trends.