Chestnut-collared Longspur – Accepted

1-4. 19 Feb 1972


~5 mi. sse Litchfield LAS



5. 01 Oct 1972


Kelso SBE



6. 19 Oct 1973


Southeast Farallon I. SF















Figure 303. The third species of longspur to have been reviewed by the CBRC, the Chestnut-collared, proved to be a regular fall migrant and winter visitor to the state, particularly in the southeastern deserts, so its records were reviewed for only two years. Non-breeders are generally quite plain. Useful marks evident in this image include a thin, grayish bill, relatively plain brown-and-buff upperparts and wings, and scattered black belly feathers. This first-fall male was photographed in November 2003 at Edwards Air Force Base, southeastern Kern County (Bob Steele).



Figure 433. Chestnut-collared is the most frequently encountered longspur in southern California. Although most are found in the deserts, small numbers regularly occur along the length of California’s coast in late fall and winter. This one was photographed on 2 November 1991 in Los Angeles, Los Angeles County (Larry Sansone).







Chestnut-collared Longspur

CHESTNUT-COLLARED LONGSPUR Calcarius ornatus (Townsend, 1837)

Accepted: 6 (100%)

Treated in Appendix H: no

Not accepted: 0

CBRC review: 1972 and 1973 records

Not submitted/reviewed: NA

Large color image: see Figures

This longspur breeds on the northern and central Great Plains, with the northern breeding limit extending from southern Alberta east to northwestern Minnesota. The southernmost nests are built in northeastern Colorado and north-central Nebraska. The winter range extends from southeastern California east to southern Kansas, and from there south through the southern Great Plains and the Mexican Plateau to Zacatecas and Aguascalientes. Records of vagrants extend east to the Atlantic coast, where the species has occurred from the Atlantic Provinces south to Florida, and west to the Pacific coast, where it has occurred from southeastern Alaska south through the Baja California Peninsula and in Guerrero.

California’s first Chestnut-collared Longspur was a first-fall female collected on 28 September 1917 at “Cow Camp” on Lee Flat, about 15 miles north of Darwin in Inyo County (Grinnell 1918, MVZ 28260). Surprisingly, this remained one of very few records into the 1960s, but the species eventually proved to be a regular fall migrant and winter visitor in the state. Small numbers winter with varying degrees of regularity at scattered sites in the northern half of the state, but this bird is most numerous in the southeastern deserts, where observers routinely encounter flocks of up to several dozen fall migrants and generally reduced numbers in winter (but see the following paragraph). Across most of the state the species is most regular and numerous between mid October and the end of November, but early migrants are occasionally found during late September. Furnace Creek Ranch in Inyo County claims two records of very early fall transients: 12 September 1974 (Garrett and Dunn 1981) and 5 August 1989 (AB 44:165). Far to the north, early fall migrants were recorded on 19 September 1980 at Arcata bottoms, Humboldt County (Harris 1996), and 17 September 1995 at Lake Talawa, Del Norte County (Harris 2006).

Patten et al. (2003) described this longspur as a “casual winter visitor” to the Salton Sink, with only 11 records between 1965 and the end of 2002. “Amazing” was the word used by these authors to characterize flocks of 150 individuals found during 2001/2002near Calipatria in Imperial County, but even higher estimates were made during subsequent winters—250 in 2002/2003 (NAB 57:259), 175 in 2003/2004 (NAB 58:284), and 300 in 2005/2006 (NAB 60:286)—which suggests that such large numbers are normal for this area.

Substantial numbers rarely reach the coastal slope during fall and winter. Examples include 60 at Pt. Reyes, Marin County, in October/November 1974 (AB 29:118, 119); 40 on San Nicolas Island, Ventura County, 18–21 October 1974 (Garrett and Dunn 1981); and 75 on then-suitable Plano Trabuco, southern Orange County, on 26 December 1976 (Hamilton and Willick 1996).

The species often vacates the state by February, but birds occasionally remain into the second half of April. Examples include four that lingered until 24 April 1994 east of San Jose, Santa Clara County (M. M. Rogers in litt.); a male at nearby Alviso on 22 April 2004 (NAB 58:431); and two or three at Independence, Inyo County, 20 April 2002 (NAB 56:359).

Spring migrants are very seldom encountered. Three have been recorded on Southeast Farallon Island between 18 May and 16 July (Richardson et al. 2003). The latest of these pertains to an alternate-plumaged male in 1984 that Pyle and Henderson (1991) termed “an anomalous spring arrival.” Additional spring migrants were recorded on 18 April 1993 in Foster City, San Mateo County (AB 47:452); 18 May 1986 at Furnace Creek Ranch (AB 40:525); and 24–30 April 2006 near Kneeland, Humboldt County (NAB 60:435).