Chestnut-collared longspur (Photo by Christian Artuso, iNaturalist, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)
What does it look like?
The chestnut-collared longspur is a medium-sized songbird with a stout bill. Like its name suggests, breeding males sport a chestnut-coloured nape, and have a black belly, yellow throat and a white tail with a black triangle in the centre. The longspur refers to the long claw on its hind toe. Females and non-breeding males are grayish-brown, with streaks on the back and sides.
Where does it live?
Chestnut-collared longspurs are native grassland specialists that are native to the northern Great Plains. They winter in southern United States and northern Mexico. They nest and feed on the ground and prefer prairie grasslands that have been heavily grazed or recently burned. They will nest in planted grasslands, but typically have less reproductive success in these areas. For this reason, protecting large, intact areas of native grassland is important for the conservation of this species.
In winter, the chestnut-collared longspur prefers open agricultural fields.
What is this species' conservation status?
The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada has assessed the chestnut-collared longspur as threatened because of its rapidly declining population. This species is also federally listed as threatened under Canada’s Species at Risk Act. Habitat loss and fragmentation of prairie grasslands are the major threats to this species.
What is NCC doing to conserve habitat for this species?
The chestnut-collared longspur can be found in the native mixed-grass prairie in Manitoba’s Oak Lake Sandhills and Wetlands Natural Area, West Souris Mixed-grass Prairie Natural Area and East Parklands Natural Area, on the Fort Ellice property. In Saskatchewan, this species occurs in Old Man on His Back Prairie and Heritage Conservation Area, Buffalo Valley and Wideview Complex. In Alberta, it is found on numerous properties around the prairie grasslands conservation region, including Sandstone Ranch.
Grasslands are one of the most endangered ecosystems worldwide, with 50 per cent lost to cropland conversion or other uses. In Canada, 70 per cent of temperate grasslands have been converted to farms, cities and roads. The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has protected more than 197,684 acres (80,000 hectares) of grasslands, coast to coast. NCC works with local partners to support ranching activities through community pastures, which are managed to protect biodiversity and restore habitats in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
In Manitoba, NCC is developing Multiple Species At Risk Recovery, Management and Research Plans that are used in planning, land management and decision making that is related to effectiveness monitoring also drive the development of key research needs. Staff use this tool to guide active land stewardship decision making. This approach is used in Manitoba to help guide the management of all NCC-owned lands on which chestnut-collared longspurs occur.
Fire and grazing play an important role in grassland health. NCC uses prescribed burning and works with ranchers to mimic the natural disturbances in prairie grassland. Maintaining a mosaic of grassland habitats, including patches with short grasses, is important for maintaining species diversity in the prairies, including the chestnut-collared longspur.