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Chestnut-collared Longspur -
Species of Concern Native Species Global Rank
State Rank Reason below)
Agency Status USFWS
MBTA; BCC11; BCC17
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State Rank Reason (see State Rank above)
Species has a negative short-term population trend and faces threats from loss of native prairie grassland habitats and altered frequency, intensity, and spatial distribution of grazing and fire regimes it is dependent on.
Details on Status Ranking and Review
Chestnut-collared Longspur ( Calcarius ornatus) Conservation Status Review
Review Date = 12/20/2011
Score U - Unknown
CommentUnknown. Range Extent
Score G - 200,000-2,500,000 km squared (about 80,000-1,000,000 square miles)
Comment254,055 square kilometers based on Natural Heritage Program range maps that appear on the Montana Field Guide Area of Occupancy
Score U - Unknown
CommentUnknown. Long-term Trend
Score D - Moderate Decline (decline of 25-50%)
CommentGrassland habitats have been heavily impacted since European arrival and species has probably declined by 25-50% over this time period. Short-term Trend
Score D - Declining. Decline of 10-30% in population, range, area occupied, and/or number or condition of occurrences
CommentBreeding Bird Survey (BBS) data for Montana is of high credibility and shows a -3.3% decline per year or 29% decline per decade. Declines for virtually all surrounding states and provinces. Trends on North Valley County Point Counts between 2001 and 2008 showed a 1% per year increase in the percent of points the species was detected on and a 4% per year increase in the number of birds. Due to declining trends in all surrounding areas and Montana's large percentage of the global breeding population this is probably best recognized as a class D of decline. Threats
Score B - Moderate and imminent threat. Threat is moderate to severe and imminent for a significant proportion (20-60%) of the population or area.
CommentLoss of native prairie is the greatest threat to the species, but altered grazing and fire regimes also represent threats. Breeding densities in grazed pastures are 9 times higher than in ungrazed pastures. Densities were higher in cropland than in adjacent tall dense idle CRP lands in North Dakota. Natural frequency, intensity, and spatial distribution of fire and grazing would probably promote species conservation.
Severity Moderate - Major reduction of species population or long-term degradation or reduction of habitat in Montana, requiring 50-100 years for recovery.
CommentSpecies seems capable of responding quickly to restored disturbances, but sod busting seems to be a long term challenge for recovery.
Scope Moderate - 20-60% of total population or area affected
CommentUncertain if 20% of grassland habitats would be lost in next 15 years, but species experts agree that the species faces threats across large portion of range.
Immediacy Moderate - Threat is likely to be operational within 2-5 years.
CommentOngoing. Intrinsic Vulnerability
Score C - Not Intrinsically Vulnerable. Species matures quickly, reproduces frequently, and/or has high fecundity such that populations recover quickly (< 5 years or 2 generations) from decreases in abundance; or species has high dispersal capability such that extirpated populations soon become reestablished through natural recolonization (unaided by humans).
CommentNot Intrinsically Vulnerable. Species matures quickly, reproduces frequently, and/or has a high fecundity such that populations recover quickly (< 5 years or 2 generations) from decreases in abundance. Species has good dispersal capabilities such that extirpated populations generally become reestablished through natural recolonization. Environmental Specificity
Score B - Narrow. Specialist. Specific habitat(s) or other abiotic and/or biotic factors (see above) are used or required by the Element, but these key requirements are common and within the generalized range of the species within the area of interest.
CommentNarrow Specialist. Dependent on shortgrass prairie (grass height less than 12 inches with less than 8 inches probably ideal for nesting). This species is found to prefer double the density of grass that McCown's Longspur did at North Valley County monitoring points. Raw Conservation Status Score
3.5 + 0.0 (geographic distribution) + 0.0 (environmental specificity) - 0.25 (short-term trend) - 0.75 (threats) = 2.5, but negative trends indicate that rounding to S2 is more justifiable than S3.
Medium-sized (length 13-16.5 cm; mass 17-23 g), terrestrial passerine, with small, acutely conical bill, long, pointed wings, and long, slender claw of hind toe (hence the name “longspur”). Four outer tail-feathers extensively white at base, forming distinctive pattern. In breeding (Definitive Alternate) male, crown and breast black, sometimes tipped with chestnut to varying degrees; cheek and upper throat yellowish buff, though some birds white in these areas; characteristic deep chestnut hindneck (collar); shoulder (lesser-coverts) black with white posterior trim (longest inner lesser-coverts). Breeding female overall grayish buff and streaked with dusky; sometimes shows dull, obscure chestnut collar and dark feathers on breast and belly. Winter (Definitive Basic) male similar to breeding male, except black on head and breast and chestnut on nape are “veiled” by buffy feather tips. Winter female similar to breeding female, but has buffy feather tips. (Bleho et al. 2015)
For a comprehensive review of the conservation status, habitat use, and ecology of this and other Montana bird species, please see
Marks et al. 2016, Birds of Montana.
This is the smallest longspur. Chestnut-collared Longspurs are most likely to be confused with McCown’s Longspurs, but have smaller, darker bills and, seen in flight, a black triangular patch in the center of the tail with white outer tailfeathers, as contrasted with the more extensively white and inverted black “T” tail pattern of McCown’s. Breeding males of the two species have distinct plumages, with McCown’s lacking the eponymous chestnut collar. (Bleho et al. 2015)
Western Hemisphere Range
Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations:
(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version)
Map Help and Descriptions
SUMMER (Feb 16 - Dec 14)
Direct Evidence of Breeding
Indirect Evidence of Breeding
No Evidence of Breeding
WINTER (Dec 15 - Feb 15)
Not Regularly Observed
(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)
Migrates from breeding grounds in the northern Great Plains to wintering grounds in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico (Bleho et al. 2015).
Species prefers short-to-medium grasses that have been recently grazed or mowed. Prefers native pastures.
Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
How Associations Were Made
We associated the use and habitat quality (common or occasional) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for
vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2012, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species' range and habitat requirements;
Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point observation database associated with each ecological system;
Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of "observations versus availability of habitat".
Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.
In general, species were listed as associated with an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.
However, species were not listed as associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system,
point observations were associated with that system.
Common versus occasional association with an ecological system was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species as represented in scientific literature.
The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignment of common versus occasional association.
If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact the Montana Natural Heritage Program's Senior Zoologist.
Suggested Uses and Limitations
Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.
These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at:
) or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.
Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.
Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.
Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).
Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species' known geographic range.
Adams, R.A. 2003. Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado. 289 p.
Dobkin, D. S. 1992. Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Publication No. R1-93-34. Missoula, MT.
Foresman, K.R. 2012. Mammals of Montana. Second edition. Mountain Press Publishing, Missoula, Montana. 429 pp.
Hart, M.M., W.A. Williams, P.C. Thornton, K.P. McLaughlin, C.M. Tobalske, B.A. Maxell, D.P. Hendricks, C.R. Peterson, and R.L. Redmond. 1998. Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates. Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT. 1302 p.
Hutto, R.L. and J.S. Young. 1999. Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32. 72 p.
Maxell, B.A. 2000. Management of Montana's amphibians: a review of factors that may present a risk to population viability and accounts on the identification, distribution, taxonomy, habitat use, natural history, and the status and conservation of individual species. Report to U.S. Forest Service Region 1. Missoula, MT: Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana. 161 p.
Werner, J.K., B.A. Maxell, P. Hendricks, and D. Flath. 2004. Amphibians and reptiles of Montana. Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company. 262 p.
Commonly Associated with these Ecological Systems
Recently Disturbed or Modified
Shrubland, Steppe and Savanna Systems
Sparse and Barren Systems
Occasionally Associated with these Ecological Systems
Human Land Use
Recently Disturbed or Modified
Wetland and Riparian Systems
Diet consists of grass seeds, insects and spiders.
Males defend territories by performing aerial song displays.
The species nests and re-nests between May 6 and the first of August. Double brooded species with three to five eggs per brood. Incubation period 10 to 13 days. Young able to fly 9 to 14 days after hatch.
Conversion of native prairie to agriculture and urban development has eliminated the Chestnut-collared Longspur from much of its historical breeding range. Disturbed native grasslands – recently grazed, mowed, or burned – provide the open, sparse vegetation preferred by this species. (Bleho et al. 2015)
Literature Cited Above
Legend: View Online Publication Bleho, B., K. Ellison, D.P. Hill and L.K. Gould. 2015. Chestnut-collared Longspur ( Calcarius ornatus), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/288 (Accessed 18 March 2016) Hill, D.P. and L.K. Gould. 1997. Chestnut-collared longspur ( Calcarius ornatus). In: A. Poole, ed. The Birds of North America Online, Species Account Number 288. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY. Marks, J.S., P. Hendricks, and D. Casey. 2016. Birds of Montana. Arrington, VA. Buteo Books. 659 pages. Additional References
Legend: View Online Publication Do you know of a citation we're missing? American Ornithologists’ Union [AOU]. 1998. Check-list of North American birds, 7th edition. American Ornithologists’ Union, Washington, D.C. 829 p. Anstey, D.A., S.K. Davis, D.C. Duncan, and M. Skeel. 1995. Distribution and habitat requirements of eight grassland songbird species in southern Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan Wetland Conservation Corp. publ., Regina. Becker, D.M. 1984. Reproductive ecology and habitat utilization of Richardson's merlins in southeastern Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Missoula, MT: University of Montana. 62 p. Bird Conservancy of the Rockies. 2017. Pocket Guide to Northern Prairie Birds. Brighton, CO: Bird Conservancy of the Rockies. 98 p. Bramblett, R.G., and A.V. Zale. 2002. Montana Prairie Riparian Native Species Report. Montana Cooperative Fishery Research Unit, Montana State University - Bozeman. Cameron, E. S. 1907. The birds of Custer and Dawson counties, Montana. Auk 24(3):389-406. Casey, D. 2000. Partners in Flight Draft Bird Conservation Plan Montana. Version 1.0. 287 pp. Casey, D. 2005. Rocky Mountain Front avian inventory. Final report. Prepared for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and The Nature Conservancy by the American Bird Conservancy, Kalispell, Montana. Dechant, J. A., M. L. Sondreal, D. H. Johnson, L. D. Igl, C. M. Goldade, M. P. Nenneman, and B. R. Euliss. 2003c. Effects of management practices on grassland birds: Chestnut-collared Longspur. Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, Jamestown, ND. Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Dieni, J.S. and S.L. Jones. 2003. Grassland songbird nest site selection patterns in northcentral Montana. Wilson Bulletin 115(4):388-396. Dobkin, D. S. 1992. Neotropical migrant landbirds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. U.S.D.A. For. Serv. N. Region Publ. R1-93-34. Missoula, Mont. Dobkin, D.S. 1994. Conservation and management of neotropical migrant landbirds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. Univ. Idaho Press, Moscow, Idaho. 220 pp. Dood, A.R. 1980. Terry Badlands nongame survey and inventory final report. Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks and Bureau of Land Management, Helena, MT. 70 pp. Ehrlich, P., D. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birder’s handbook: a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon and Schuster Inc. New York. 785 pp. Faanes, C.A. 1983. Breeding birds of wooded draws in western North Dakota. Prairie Nat. 15(4): 173-187. Felske, B.E. 1971. The population dynamics and productivity of McCown's longspurs at Matador, Saskatchewan. MS Thesis, Univ. of Sask, Saskatoon, Canada. 133 pp. Fink, D., K.V. Rosenberg, F.A. La Sorte, M.J. Iliff, C. Wood, and S. Kelling. 2013. Species distribution modeling of priority bird species on Bureau of Land Management lands to determine stewardship responsibility for conservation planning. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 224 p. Gillihan, SW. and T. VerCauteren. 2015. Pocket Guide to Prairie Birds. Brighton, CO: Bird Conservancy of the Rockies. 91 p. Gniadek, S. 1983. Southwest Glendive Wildlife Baseline Inventory. Miles City, Mont: Bureau of Land Management, Miles City District Office. 56 pp with appendices. Greer, R.D. and S.H. Anderson. 1989. Relationships between population demography of McCown's longspurs and habitat resources. Condor 91: 609-619. Hays, R., R.L. Eng, and C.V. Davis (preparers). 1984. A list of Montana birds. Helena, MT: MT Dept. of Fish, Wildlife & Parks. Hendricks, P, S. Lenard, and C. Currier. 2012. Grassland Bird Surveys in North Valley County and Northwest Phillips County, Montana: 2011 Summary. Report to the USDI Bureau of Land Management. Montana Natural Heritage Program. Helena, MT. 7pp. Hendricks, P., G.M. Kudray, S. Lenard, and B.A. Maxell. 2007. A Multi-Scale Analysis Linking Prairie Breeding Birds to Site and Landscape Factors Including USGS GAP Data. Helena, Mont: Montana Natural Heritage Program. Hendricks, P., S. Lenard, C. Currier, and J. Carlson. 2007. Grassland bird surveys in north Valley County, Montana: 2001-2006. Report to the Bureau of Land Management, Glasgow Field Office. Montana Natural Heritage Program, Helena, Montana. 19 pp. plus appendices. Hendricks, P., S. Lenard, C. Currier, B. A. Maxell, and J. Carlson. 2008. Surveys for grassland birds of the Malta Field Office-BLM, including a seven-year study in north Valley County. Montana Natural Heritage Program, Helena. Hendricks, P., S. Lenard, D.M. Stagliano, and B.A. Maxell. 2013. Baseline nongame wildlife surveys on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. Report to the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. Montana Natural Heritage Program, Helena, MT. 83 p. Johnsgard, P.A. 1979. Birds of the Great Plains: breeding species and their distribution. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln. 539 pp. Johnsgard, P.A. 1992. Birds of the Rocky Mountains with particular reference to national parks in the northern Rocky Mountain region. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. xi + 504 pp. Joslin, Gayle, and Heidi B. Youmans. 1999. Effects of recreation on Rocky Mountain wildlife: a review for Montana. [Montana]: Montana Chapter of the Wildlife Society. Kantrud, H.A. 1982. Maps of distribution and abundance of selected species of birds on uncultivated native upland grasslands and shrubsteppe in the northern Great Plains. U.S. Dept. Int., Fish and Wildl. Serv. FWS/OBS-82/31. 31 p. Lenard, S. 2006. Birds of Blaine County, Riparian Point Count Surveys 2005. Report to the Bureau of LandManagement, Havre Field Station, Havre, Montana. Montana Natural Heritage Program, Helena, MT. 16pp.plus appendices. Lenard, S. and P. Hendricks. 2005. Birds of selected grassland and riparian plots along the Rocky Mountain Front. Montana Natural Heritage Program for US Fish and Wildlife Service and The Nature Conservancy. 17pp + maps. Lenard, S., Compiler. 2005. Surveys for Animal Species of Concern in Sage and Grassland Landscapes in Montana. An unpublished report to the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks, State Wildlife Grants Program. Montana Natural Heritage Program, Helena, Montana. 63pp. Lenard, S., J. Carlson, J. Ellis, C. Jones, and C. Tilly. 2003. P. D. Skaar's Montana bird distribution, 6th edition. Montana Audubon, Helena, MT. 144 pp. Montana Bird Distribution Committee. 2012. P.D. Skaar's Montana bird distribution. 7th Edition. Montana Audubon, Helena, Montana. 208 pp. + foldout map. Mundinger, J.G. 1975. The influence of rest-rotation grazing management on waterfowl production on stock-water reservoirs in Phillips County, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 100 p. Oechsli, L.M. 2000. Ex-urban development in the Rocky Mountain West: consequences for native vegetation, wildlife diversity, and land-use planning in Big Sky, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Montana State University, Bozeman. 73 p. Owens, R.A. and M.T. Myres. 1973. Effects of agriculture upon populations of native passerine birds of an Alberta fescue grassland. Can. J. Zool. 51: 697-713. Pavlacky Jr., D.C., et al. 2021. Landscape-scale conservation mitigates the biodiversity loss of grassland birds. Ecological Applications e2548. 17 p. Porter, D.K. and R.A. Ryder. 1972. Avian density and productivity studies and analyses on the Pawnee Site in 1972. Fort Collins, CO: Colorado State University. Unpublished report, Department of Fishery and Wildlife Biology. 77 p. Pulliam, J.P. 2019. Associations of broad scale vegetation characteristics and abundances, nest densities, and nest survival of mixed-grass prairie songbirds in northern Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 119 p. Pulliam, J.P., S. 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Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY. 598 pp. Skaar, P. D., D. L. Flath, and L. S. Thompson. 1985. Montana bird distribution. Montana Academy of Sciences Monograph 3(44): ii-69. Skaar, P.D. 1969. Birds of the Bozeman latilong: a compilation of data concerning the birds which occur between 45 and 46 N. latitude and 111 and 112 W. longitude, with current lists for Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, impinging Montana counties and Yellowstone National Park. Bozeman, MT. 132 p. Stewart, R.E. 1975. Breeding birds of North Dakota. Tri-College Center for Environmental Studies, Fargo, North Dakota. 295 pp. Stewart, R.E. and H.A. Kantrud. 1972. Population estimates of breeding birds in North Dakota. The Auk 89(4):766-788. Thompson, L.S. 1978. Species abundance and habitat relations of an insular montane avifauna. Condor 80(1):1-14. Thompson, L.S. 1981. Circle West wildlife monitoring study: Third annual report. Technical report No. 8. Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. Helena, Montana. 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