Thursday, July 4, 2013

Chestnut-collared Longspurs on Pasture Rocks in Saskatchewan

Chestnut-collared Longspur. Photo © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Chestnut-collared Longspur, singing in early morning. © SB
Early morning, and Chestnut-collared Longspurs are singing from rocks and sagebrush in a pasture near Grasslands National Park, in southern Saskatchewan.

These small songbirds seem to like a very specific habitat... I only saw them in this one small area, with sagebrush and these rocks.

Their limited habitat — and land-use competition for it — may explain why Chestnut-collared Longspurs are now entered as "threatened" on the Canadian federal government's Species At Risk lists.

In general, they prefer native pastures, followed by other grazed grasses and hayland, and in Saskatchewan, Chestnut-collared Longspurs are more often found on pastures than on hay or cropland.

That's significant, as their breeding territory and distribution is very limited, from southern Alberta to southern Manitoba, south to westcentral Colorado, and east through North Dakota and South Dakota to western Minnesota. (Effects of management practices on grassland birds: Chestnut-collared Longspur, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center.)

From a distance or in flight, these prairie birds look, well, brown. Just like so many other little birds. But in breeding season, the males sport crisp black vests and vibrant chestnut collars. And start the morning, singing.

Chestnut-collared Longspur. Photo © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Chestnut-collared Longspur, displaying its chestnut collar.  © SB
Chestnut-collared Longspur. Photo © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Sagebrush: Another singing spot for Chestnut-collared Longspurs. © SB
Chestnut-collared Longspur. Photo © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Closer view of the Chestnut-collared Longspur on sage.© SB 

Seen on the Public Pastures-Public Interest 2013 grasslands/pastures Prairie Passages Tour with Margaret Atwood and Graeme Gibson. For more on the tour and updates on the work of PPPI and the future of the PFRA pastures, see Trevor Herriot's Grass Notes, and Pasture Posts.

What are these? Chestnut-collared Longspurs.
Location: Near Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan.
Photo date: June 25, 2013.

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