Lapland Longspurs wheel about in uncountable masses over frozen fields that farmers vacate for the winter. In early fall, Lapland Longspurs can be seen in the lower mountains, but as winter sets in, they move to the foothills and plains. They might have left their beautiful spring plumage behind in the Arctic, but they now show communal grace in their flocking synchrony. These winter residents of farmlands feed themselves by scraping away the ice and snow to reach the grains the combines could not catch. This species breeds across northern polar regions, including the area of northern Europe known as Lapland.
I.D.: Non-breeding: white outer tail feathers; often has rufous in the wings; light underparts; mottled upperparts; lightly streaked flanks; dark bill; male has pale chestnut on the nape; female lacks the chestnut nape.
Size: L 61/4 in. (16 cm).
Range: uncommon fall migrant along the eastern slopes of the Rockies; rare winter resident in the U.S. Rockies.
Habitat: grasslands, stubble fields. In migration: alpine meadows.
Nesting: on the tundra; in a shallow depression on a hummock; cup nest is woven with moss, grass and fur; female incubates 4-6 eggs for 12-13 days.
Feeding: Winter: gleans the ground and snow for seeds and waste grain. Summer: eats insects and seeds.
Voice: flight song is a rapid warbling; musical calls, plus a dry rattle in flight.
Similar Species: Snow Bunting: shows white and black patterning in flight; lacks the brown mottling on the back.