Lapland longspurs breed in the arctic and winter in the lower 48 states, including Montana. They are not uncommon, but are often a challenge to identify. Rarely seeking perches off the ground, they forage for seeds in fields and grasslands. Longspurs are often mixed in with large flocks of birds like horned larks, making them difficult to find. Last winter Kate Stone confirmed the first presence of wintering Lapland longspurs on MPG Ranch. Because they are easily overlooked we were unsure if longspurs are a typical winter bird for the ranch. This year I have seen them twice. Both times there were only a few amongst a flock of 400 horned larks. We will continue searching large winter flocks for this elusive bird.
A Lapland longspur with a horned lark in the background. photo by Eric Rasmussen
Part of a flock of 400 horned larks, with two Lapland longspurs in the middle. photo by Eric Rasmussen
Eric received a B.S. in Resource Conservation from the University of Montana in 2000, and soon after volunteered for his first bird research job in the arctic tundra of Alaska. Afterwards he worked for nine years, mostly in western Montana, on bird-related research projects for the U.S. Forest Service.
In 2010, Eric was hired by MPG Ranch as the Bird Research Technician and now conducts breeding bird surveys, raptor migration surveys, and winter bird surveys, as well as participating in other ranch projects such as owl and raptor banding and community field trips. In his free time, Eric enjoys searching for wild mushrooms, playing ultimate Frisbee, and backcountry skiing.