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A photo of a Lapland Longspur (Calcarius lapponicus), male
Lapland Longspur, Male

Lapland Longspur

Calcarius lapponicus

The Lapland longspur, or Lapland bunting, is a robust passerine bird characterized by its thick yellow bill, adapted for seed consumption. In the breeding season, the male dons a striking plumage with a black head and throat, a contrasting white eyestripe, and a chestnut nape. Its underparts are white, while the back is heavily streaked in black and grey. Outside of the breeding season, both sexes exhibit a more subdued appearance with an orange-brown head, a browner back, and chestnut nape and wing panels.

Identification Tips

When identifying the Lapland longspur, look for the following key features:

  • Length: 5.9-6.3 inches (15-16 cm)
  • Weight: 0.8-1.2 ounces (22.3-33.1 g)
  • Wingspan: 8.7-11.4 inches (22-29 cm)
  • Summer males with black head and throat, white eyestripe, and chestnut nape
  • Non-breeding plumage with orange-brown head and browner back


The Lapland longspur breeds in the wet tundra regions, often with birch or willow, and on bare mountainous areas. During the winter, it can be found on cultivated lands or coastal regions.


This species has a circumpolar distribution, breeding across Arctic Europe, the Palearctic, Canada, and the northern United States. It is migratory, wintering in places such as the Russian steppes, the southern United States, Northern Scandinavian arctic areas, coastal Southern Sweden, Denmark, and Great Britain.


The Lapland longspur is often observed near the tree line and is known to feed in mixed-species flocks during winter. It is a ground-nesting bird, laying 2-4 eggs per clutch.

Song & Calls

The flight call of the Lapland longspur is a distinctive hard "prrrrt," often preceded by a nasal "teeww." During the breeding season, it also emits a softer "duyyeee" followed by a pause and then a "triiiuuu," alternating between the two sounds.


Breeding habitats are typically wet areas with shrubs or bare mountains. The species winters on cultivated land or along coasts, often seen close to the tree line.

Diet and Feeding

In winter, the Lapland longspur primarily feeds on seeds, foraging on the ground and occasionally directly from plants. Its diet includes seeds from grasses, foxtail, millet, crabgrass, and wheat. During the summer breeding season, the diet shifts to arthropods, with both adults and nestlings consuming insects, often caught mid-air. Dipteran larvae and adults are significant components of their insectivorous diet.

Conservation status

The Lapland longspur is currently listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, indicating that it is not at immediate risk of widespread decline.

Lapland Longspur Sounds

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