Family Longspurs (Calcariidae)

Least Concern

Smith's Longspur (Calcarius pictus)


French: Plectrophane de Smith German: Goldbauch-Spornammer Spanish: Escribano de Smith

Emberiza (Plectrophanes) picta


, 1832,

Carlton House, on banks of the Saskatchewan River, Saskatchewan, Canada




NE Alaska and NC Canada from extreme N British Columbia E across N Yukon and N & EC Mackenzie to S Nunavut, NE Manitoba and extreme N Ontario; disjunct population in SE Alaska and extreme NW British Columbia. Winters in S USA from SC Kansas and C Iowa S to Oklahoma, C Texas and N Louisiana E to Arkansas, W Tennessee, Mississippi and N Alabama (rare).

Descriptive notes

14–17 cm; 21–32 g. A fairly large bunting, with white in tail, relatively large head and short tail; sexes differ in coloration. Male breeding has forehead and... read more


Song “tat a tee twe twe twee-werr-tee we chew”, with ending syllables emphasized,... read more


Breeds in moist tundra at edge of tree-line, where found in sedges (Carex) and grasses... read more

Food and feeding

In summer feeds young with grasshoppers (Orthoptera), emergent dragonflies (Odonata), adult dipteran flies (of families Tipulidae,... read more


Start of egg-laying varies depending on local weather conditions, e.g. at Churchill, in Manitoba, first eggs from as early as 9th Jun to as... read more


Migratory. Males arrive on breeding grounds before females, and apparently also migrate S earlier.... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Classified as “Rare” in the USA (Yellow WatchList priority species for conservation). Generally uncommon, but locally... read more

Recommended citation

Rising, J. (2019). Smith's Longspur (Calcarius pictus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 19 March 2019).