McCown’s Longspur – Accepted

1. 09 Jan 1972


vic. Calipatria IMP










Figure 301. The CBRC reviewed records of McCown’s Longspur from 1972 only. A heavy pinkish bill, wide, pale supercilium, lack of black on the face, and pale, lightly marked plumage combine to identify this first-fall female, photographed on 27 November 1991 near Lancaster, Los Angeles County (Larry Sansone).






McCown’s Longspurs

McCOWN’S LONGSPUR Calcarius mccownii (Lawrence, 1851)

Accepted: 1 (100%)

Treated in Appendix H: no

Not accepted: 0

CBRC review: 1972 records1

Not submitted/reviewed: NA

Large color image: see Figure

This grassland specialist breeds in a shrinking range that stretches from southeastern Alberta and southern Saskatchewan south to northern Colorado and western Nebraska. As summarized by With (1994) and Carlson (2006), the breeding range was previously much more extensive, stretching eastward across North Dakota to western Minnesota and south from there to northwestern Oklahoma. The primary wintering range extends from southwestern Kansas south through central Texas to northern Durango; the northern limit also extends west from Texas along the southern border of New Mexico to extreme southeastern Arizona. The species is a very rare fall migrant and winter visitor across the Southwest and along the Pacific slope between southern British Columbia and Baja California (NAB 59:156), with only a handful of records outside of California. Additional records are scattered a modest distance north and especially east of the normal range, plus outliers from northern Manitoba, northern Ontario (NAB 59:590), and Massachusetts.

California’s first McCown’s Longspurs were recorded on 16 October 1949 when a specimen (placed in the private McLean Collection) was collected from a flock of seven in Deep Springs Valley, Inyo County (McCaskie 1966b, McLean 1969). This longspur occurs far less frequently in California than either the Lapland (regular in numbers on the northern coast and Modoc Plateau) or Chestnut-collared (regular in numbers in southeastern California), but the CBRC quickly determined that McCown’s was not so rare as to warrant continued review. The species is recorded in sparsely vegetated habitats across the state, especially in the southern half, where most are found among large flocks of Horned Larks, often with other longspurs. Surprisingly, none has yet been found on Southeast Farallon Island.

Most records of this species from northern California and the southern coastal slope involve lone birds in late fall/early winter (late October to mid December), but small flocks and wintering birds occur very rarely in these parts of the state. Exceptional for the Central Valley was a flock of up to seven present in southeastern Colusa County 20 January–16 March 2000 (NAB 54:219). Up to two birds present 3–13 October 2003 at Port Hueneme in Ventura County (NAB 58:145) furnished the state’s earliest fall record, and two of San Clemente Island’s four records were only slightly later: females on 8 October 2002 and 11 October 2003 (Sullivan and Kershner 2005). The only other island record involves a male in alternate plumage found on Santa Barbara Island, Santa Barbara County, on the atypical date of 1 July 1981 (fide P. W. Collins, NAB 57:119). The species is encountered most regularly in the southeastern deserts, where winter records and flocks—including high counts of up to 20 near Westmorland, Imperial County, 24 November 1966–11 February 1967 (Patten et al. 2003), and at least 13 near Lancaster, Los Angeles County, 16 January–13 February 2000 (NAB 54:222)—are less exceptional. Winter visitors typically depart by mid February, occasionally as late as early March. The species has been recorded twice in April: 16 April 1982 at Twentynine Palms, San Bernardino County (AB 36:895), and two birds found on 17 April 1983 at Mono Lake, Mono County, by the late David Gaines (1988).

1On the review list 1972–1973