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Longspurs in Oklahoma


A common question birders visiting Oklahoma ask is "Where can I find longspurs?" This question has been asked on the OKBirds Listserve many times over the years, and on this page I have compiled the answers from Oklahoma birders. Steve Schafer  and Joe Grzybowski have especially contributed very informative posts. Finally,  I've added two posts from Cyndie Browning on her birding adventures at the Tall grass Prairie Preserve, which include longspur searches.

Please be aware that some of this information is a few years old, but in general it is still all relevant and should serve as a guide to finding longspurs in Oklahoma. There is also excellent information included on identifying longspurs.

The posts are presented in chronological order, so be sure to scroll to the bottom to see the latest posts, from January 2006.

As a quick reference, the two top Tulsa area Locations for Longspurs are the North Tulsa Prairies and the Nature Conservancy's Tall Grass Prairie Preserve, north of Pawhuka.

Also, another good spot mentioned in several of the posts is Sooner Lake, a cooling reservoir for the OG&E power plant, located 20 miles north of Stillwater on US 177. However, due to security restrictions, the only access that birders currently have is the same access that fisherman have which are the fishing areas, boat ramps as well as boats on the lake. However, the Plant Manager has been working with birders to arrange for controlled access. When an arrangement has been made, I will provide the details here.


Sat, 27 Nov 1999
From: Joe Grzybowski
Subject: Re: Fw: Birdng  In Oklahoma

Thanks for your interest in Oklahoma.  I assume by longspurs, that you meant all four species.  First, I would like to draw your attention to GUIDE BOOK by Jerry Cooper:  Birdfinder: A birder's guide to planning North American Trips put out by the American Birding Association.  (Link to this book on Amazon) There is a chapter on birding "Oklahoma in Winter" (January) which can lead you to Lesser Prairie-Chckens and all four longspur species.  If you can't obtain a copy, I can xerox the pertinent pages and mail (may need to send  Jerry a stipend).  What follows may suffice.

Lesser Prairie-Chickens are best found near Arnett Oklahoma, generally to the southeast of town.  From the junction of hiways  60 and 283, take 283 south about one mile to an intersection where there is a brick house with a tall antennae on the southeast corner.  Turn left or east on this road.  Within about one or two miles, it will start to  take you through an extensive prairie area.  After about four to six miles (can't remember exactly), the road (which had been straight) veers right (just after crossing a cattle guard) and starts more to meander.  From this point for the next 12-15 miles is Lesser Prairie Chicken habitat.  I really don't know what the best tactic would be to see them during the winter time (I have usually gone there during the spring to specific leks), but Cooper recommends checking in grain fields or oak shinnery patches (a low growing oak of the prairies).

McCown's Longspur may be the toughest, but there is a prairie dog town near Duke (about 9.5 miles west and 2 miles north of Altus) that has been reliable.  It is also possible to see them with Laplands in winter wheat fields in that area to Eldorado.  In most areas away from this Altus-Eldorado block, it is usually a litle bit of luck to see a few McCown's with Laplands here or there.   

Lapland Longspurs can be found in many open winter wheat fields, particularly those with stubble from a previous crop of sorghum.  Almost all longspurs you randomly hear flying overhead are Laplands.  

Chestnut-collared Longspurs. These like low, moderately grazed grasslands.  They are widespread but local in central and western Oklahoma during winter, although the best chances of seeing them in recent years is in southwestern Oklahoma.  The Wichita Mtns Wildlife Refuge has one area that usually has 100-500 birds - in grassland west of Mount Scott surrounding main road where the Meers cutoff occurs.  There are buffaloes in this area--recommend not messing with the buffalo.  The grassland covers several square miles, and the buffalo are usually clumped, so should not be a problem. The longspurs are sometimes right along the roadway (might be mistaken for Vesper Sparrows which are almost non-existent during the winter), but don't count on it (see them that way maybe one trip in ten). Probaly have to walk out and flush to see them.

Smith's Longspur. This is the longspur of central and northeastern Oklahoma.  It can be expected on many to most open fields of 400+ acreas with significant patches of Aristida (three awn grass which is normally ankle high, flimsy, pale tan and has a very thin stem like seed with three long wisps coming off end opposite tip with seed).  While there are many places with Smith's, almost all in the OKC and Norman area are on private land. The most reliable place for birders has been at Sooner Lake south of Ponca City. Any grassland with suitable habitat in this area should have Smith's.  To get to one specific spot, one has to enter Sooner Generating Plant facility (can be seen for miles) and wander to the grassland surrounding a radio tower near northwest corner of property. The specific sites can change from year to year depending on grazing leases, mowing etc., but there are hundreds in the area (should be in almost every patch of suitable habitat).


Sun, 4 Nov 2001
From: Steve Schafer
Subject: Re: christmas birding around OKC

I'll begin by commenting on the Cooper book (Link to this book on Amazon) (which I assume is the birdfinding guide you're referring to) and note that it tends to be rather optimistic, not just for the Oklahoma route but for the other ones as well. Nevertheless, it is quite possible to see all four longspur species in Oklahoma at the end of December. (My wife and I once managed to see all four in one afternoon in late fall, although that was somewhat of a fluke.) But with the possible exception of Smith's Longspur, the phrase "a reliable location to see a longspur" is a bit of an oxymoron.

Finding longspurs is largely a question of knowing where to look (duh), and that is more a matter of searching the proper habitats than it is of going to a specific place. So let's look first at:

Habitat Preferences

McCown's Longspur - McCown's are birds of the shortgrass prairies, so they're pretty much confined to the southwestern quarter of the state and the panhandle (although I did see one in Norman once). Their favored habitat seems to be heavily overgrazed cattle pastures. Basically, if the habitat is suitable for Horned Larks, there's a decent chance of finding McCown's Longspurs there as well (often in the same flocks as the larks).

Lapland Longspur - These prefer somewhat more vegetation than McCown's. The preferred habitat seems to be wheat fields, either newly planted winter wheat or the previous year's stubble. At that time of year, the wheat is generally only a few inches tall, so you might be able to find some by scoping a wheat field.

Chestnut-collared Longspur - These and Smith's prefer taller grass, which generally means that they're invisible until flushed. Chestnut-collareds seem to like somewhat sparser vegetation than Smith's, where you can see patches of bare ground between the clumps of grass. If there's snow on the ground, you might see them along the edge of a road.

Smith's Longspur - These are found almost exclusively in relatively dense patches of mixed Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and Three-Awn (Aristida sp.).

Okay, so now that you know where to look, how do you (a) tell that you have longspurs, and (b) tell them apart?

In flight, longspur flocks tend to be rather loose and disorganized. They're all going in pretty much the same direction, but without the single-mindedness of a flock of starlings or blackbirds. They also fly quite high over the fields, much higher than most of the other emberizid sparrows.

When a longspur flushes from in front of you as you walk across a field, the first thing you notice is the white in the tail, of course. It's relatively easy to distinguish the two "white outer tail feather" species (Lapland and Smith's) from the two "inverted black T" species (McCown's and Chestnut-collared), but you don't often get a good enough look to break it down any more finely than that.

The only other bird you're likely to encounter in longspur habitat that has white in its tail is a Vesper Sparrow. When flushed, these have a tendency to land in a tree or on a bare patch of ground (or a road), where you at least have a chance to look at them. Their tails are long relative to those of longspurs.

Another good mark that the field guides don't emphasize, and that you can often see well as the birds fly away from you, is the white shoulder patches on male Chestnut-collared and Smith's Longspurs. The white patch on a male House Sparrow's wings is similar in appearance, so take a good look at the House Sparrows in front of the supermarket or gas station or wherever as they fly away from you next time you're there. Of course, you have to practically step on a House Sparrow to get it to fly, but it's all in the pursuit of knowledge.

Even in winter plumage, male Chestnut-collared Longspurs generally have enough black on their breast and belly that you can use that to identify them as they fly around over your head after you've flushed them. The combination of the blackish belly and white shoulder patch, assuming you manage to see both on the same bird, is diagnostic. Similarly, traces of a black inverted triangle are generally visible on the upper breast of a male McCown's Longspur.

Lapland Longspurs are the most contrasty and heavily-streaked. McCown's are very pale and essentially streakless on their underparts (in winter). Smith's are very warm and orangeish below. Chestnut-collareds are pretty much intermediate in all respects (apart from the blackish bellies of the males).

The end of December is probably too early, but certainly by the end of January the males have started acquiring their breeding plumage, which makes identification much easier. The McCown's have their black triangles but otherwise pale underparts, the Laplands begin to get a black breast band to accompany their dark streaking, the Chestnut-collareds are almost completely black underneath, and the Smith's are very orange, with bold black and white facial markings.

So where do you go to find these birds?

Smith's Longspur - As I mentioned, these are the only ones that you can generally find in the same field day after day. There used to be a good field in Edmond, just a few miles from where I live, but the past few years it's been mowed in the fall, making it unsuitable for Smith's Longspurs. However, I've noticed that it hasn't been mowed this year, so it's possible that they may come back. From central OKC, go north on U.S. 77 (aka the Broadway Extension) to Edmond. Turn left (west) on 33rd St, which is the first traffic light you encounter after you cross under the Kilpatrick Turnpike and the freeway ends and becomes surface street. Go about one mile to Lincoln Blvd and turn left (south). Park anywhere along here; the field is the one on your left (east of Lincoln). Walk the field; if the birds are there, they will eventually flush. When they were there previously, the flock typically had 10-20 individuals.

Another place that has been reliable is a somewhat dilapidated housing development optimistically named High Plains Estates, along Etowah Rd about four miles east of the town of Noble, south of Norman. However, last I heard, the area was no longer accessible to the public, and I haven't been down there recently to check. (This is the only place in Oklahoma that I've seen a Smith's Longspur on the ground. Most often, the grass is so tall that they're impossible to see except when they're flying.)

A place where you're almost certain to find Smith's Longspurs is Sooner Lake, north of Stillwater. The only problem there is that they tend to be widely scattered, so you're likely to have to do quite a lot of walking before you flush one. From Stillwater, take U.S. 177 north. Just north of town, you cross a spur of the Cimarron Turnpike. Thirteen miles later, you cross another part of the Cimarron Turnpike. Three and a half miles beyond that, there is a dirt section-line road to the right (east), along a row of trees. (If you come to the entrance of the OG&E power plant, you've gone one mile too far.) Take the dirt road until it ends at a small parking area. From there, you can walk the (vast) fields to the east, between the parking area and the lake. What you're looking for is patches of Three-Awn (fairly short, yellowish, filamentous grass) amid the stands of Big and Little Bluestem (which is orange/red in winter).

Chestnut-collared Longspur - The Wichita Mountains NWR seems to be the best place for these. They can be just about anywhere along the roads throughout the refuge, but one spot that is especially worth checking out is near the refuge headquarters (not the visitors' center). From State Highway 49, take the road that goes south toward the refuge headquarters. Continue along this road another two miles or so until it makes a sharp turn to the right (west). The grassy hillside over your left shoulder (east of the road) is the area to concentrate on.

McCown's Longspur - A good spot for these is at the Kizziar feed lots west of Altus. From the intersection of U.S. 62 and U.S. 283 in Altus, go west eight miles on U.S. 62 (I think it's eight miles, but I might be off by a mile), to a small green sign that points to the Altus Landfill on the north. Turn right (north) on this road, go two miles, then turn left (west). You'll soon pass the feed lot buildings on the right, after which you go by a small pond and a prairie dog town, and then the road abruptly starts to go uphill. This is the area in which the longspurs can be found, primarily on the north side, both in the vicinity of the pond below the hill, and also on top of the "mesa" (such as it is). You can call ahead to the feed lot at 580-482-7611 and ask for permission to jump the fence and walk around the prairie dog town. (Be sure to tell them that you're a "birdwatcher"--they don't seem to understand what the word "birder" means.)

Lapland Longspur - Although Laplands are the most numerous, they're also the hardest to pin down to any one specific location--they seem to be more nomadic than the others. One place we've seen them in great numbers (several thousand) is the wheat fields just west of Foss Reservoir at Washita NWR. The best thing to do is to drive the section-line roads and keep your eyes open. Late afternoon seems to be the time that they're most likely to be flying around in flocks, but then you find yourself in a race against the setting sun....

One other spot to check, for no other reason than that it is convenient to OKC, is Rock Creek Rd in Norman. From OKC, go south on I-35 to the Tecumseh Rd exit on the north side of Norman, then go right (west) a half mile to the first section line road, and then left (south) one mile to Rock Creed Rd. Turn right (west) on Rock Creek Rd. The various fields in this area can have longspurs, although to be honest I've found them to be somewhat hit-or-miss.


Sat, 3 Nov 2001
From: Joe Grzybowski
Subject: Re: christmas birding around OKC

Steve's lengthy discourse on Longspurs is quite good.  I could add a few points.

On Chestnut-collared Longspurs, a good place in the Wichita Mountains is the large grassland just west of Mount Scott that surrounds the intersection for Meers.  You might have to walk a bit, but CCLO's (up to 500 or so) can be in there.  Need to not get too close to any buffalo though.

On ID, one thing Steve overlooked was call.  Three of the species make ticking notes pretty like each other, but CCLO's are quite different giving a mellow "kideedle, kideedle" call as they flush.  Also, while  Smith's are quite buffy bellied, Laplands are often white bellied. In addition, McCown's can be in flocks of Laplands, and can be detected when they fly by looking for the paler, shorter-tailed bird(s) with a lot of white in the tail. In Norman, the ratio is about 1:1,000::McCown's:Lapland in late November and early December [although I did see swirls of some 18,000 Laplands once with no McCown's].

Chestnut-collareds were in over a week ago


Tue, 6 Feb 2001
From: Steve Schafer
Subject: Re: Trumpeter Swans & Smith's Longspurs

Smith's Longspurs can be found just about anywhere you can find the suitable mix of Three-Awn (Aristida oligantha) and Little Bluestem (Andropogon scoparius) grasses that they seem to favor. Of course, finding such areas can be challenging. Right now, the most reliable area seems to be near Sooner Lake, north of Stillwater. Looking at the bottom of page 23 in your DeLorme guide, you'll see that US 177 runs along the west side of Sooner Lake for about four miles, between the two sections of State Highway 15. Turn east on the short dirt road that extends east from US 177, one mile north of the southern/eastern piece of Highway 15. (This is also one mile south of the main entrance road to the power plant.) The road ends at a small parking area, where you can park and then walk the fields to the east. You can flush Smith's Longspurs just about anywhere, but look especially for areas of short, yellowish Aristida grass, which tend to stand out against the orangeish Big Bluestem that dominates the area.


Tue, 6 Feb 2001
From: Joe Grzybowski
Subject:      Re: Trumpeter Swans & Smith's Longspurs

The area indicated by Steve has actually become unreliable in recent years to a alrge extent because it may no longer be grazed and has become too tall for Smith's (although I haven't been up there this year). It is possible to flush Greater Prairie-Chickens in this field, however.

There are some fields on the east side of the lake, or around the microwave tower on the northwest corner of the OG&E property for Smith's--have to key into the habitat indicated by Steve.


Sun, 27 Jan 2002
From: Steve Schafer
Subject: Smith's Longspurs in Edmomd

Janet wanted to check if there were any Smith's Longspurs in a "traditional" spot near where we live, so we went out there this morning. The past few years, the area has been mowed in the fall, making it unsuitable for Smith's Longspurs, but it wasn't mowed last year, so we thought that they might be back. And indeed they were; we found a flock of eight.

To get there: From I-35, take the 33rd St exit in Edmond (Exit 139). Go west on 33rd St for 4.5 miles to Lincoln Blvd on the left. Turn left (south) on Lincoln Blvd. The field containing the Smith's Longspurs is the one on your left (east). There's a driveway to nowhere a short ways down the block (near one of the red fire hydrants); you can pull into the driveway and park at the edge of the field.

 The basic technique is to walk the field. Eventually, you will flush a longspur, although it may take a while, since they won't flush until you get pretty close, and they're essentially invisble while they're on the ground. Along with the longspurs, there are numerous Savannah Sparrows, but it's easy to tell them apart when they flush, even if you don't get a good look at the field marks: The Savannah Sparrows rarely rise more than about ten feet above the ground, and generally only fly far enough to get outside of what they perceive to be your "sphere of influence." A Smith's Longspur will fly up very high, and if you flush one there's a good chance that the whole flock will flush at the same time. And once they're up in the air, they will circle around for quite a while before they decide to come back down. The Savannah Sparrows, if they call at all, will make their thin "sseet" call, while the Smith's Longspurs will almost always make their "pitta-pitta-pitta" call, which is vaguely reminiscent of the trill of an Eastern Meadowlark, only slower. (There are meadowlarks in the field, too.)

I strongly recommend that you wear high-top boots while walking this field--the seeds of the _Aristida_ grass are quite literally a real pain. 


Fri, 4 Feb 2005
From: Patricia Velte
Subject: Re: Purina fields?

The Purina field is in Edmond and is located at the southeast corner of 33rd & Lincoln (33rd Street in Edmond turns into N. 150th Street in OKC). Driving west on 33rd from the Broadway Extension they'll pass through the traffic light at Kelly and Lincoln will be the next street where they can turn south. The field is unfenced and has a couple of billboard structures on the north end, and hay rolls on the south end. There is a roller rink and cheerleading place on the west side of Lincoln, and the Purina plant, with it's easy to see checkerboard logo is just a little further south of the field. Hope this helps!!!


Date: Fri, 20 Jan 2006
From: Mandy Husak
Subject: Re: Longspur Queries

Kurt Meisenzal had a lone Smith's on the CBC at the Wichita Mtns this year (had to rare bird report that one!) as well as scads of Chestnut-Collareds.  I can't remember if we had any McGowan's, but I'd be willing to bet we did.  Many of the Longspurs were seen by Quanah Parker Lake and in the grassy fields next to the Holy City.  There have also been numerous sightings near Meers, OK (just off the Refuge).  In previous years, we also Longspurs in good numbers at Hackberry Flats WMA in Tillman Co.


Fri, 20 Jan 2006
From: Tim O'Connell
Subject: Re: Longspur Queries

On January 9th, I hosted a recent Penn State grad who was passing through for a few hours on his way to Arizona and wanted to try for his life Smith's.  We got them easily at the Sooner Lake Recreation Area in Noble County.  The area is now sort of ambiguously posted, and I honestly couldn't tell if we were in a restricted area or not.  Anyway, we flushed about 15 birds (solitary or in small groups) from the tall grass at this site.

Last weekend my new student Vince (whom you'll all come to know and love over the next couple of years) went to the same spot and came up empty. (He was with us on the 9th, so he knew where he was going.)  So I don't know what's going on with them, but given the mild, dry winter we're having, I wouldn't be surprised if some species we're moving erratically.

(Speaking of which, we had a flock of about 40 American White Pelicans at Sooner Lake on the 9th too!)

Fri, 20 Jan 2006
From: Jim Arterburn
Subject: Re: Longspur Queries

Tim & OKBirds,

Currently the only access that birders have is the same access that fisherman have which are the fishing areas, boat ramps as well as boats on the lake. I talked with the OG&E Plant Manager yesterday and he said that they are scheduled to finalize their security policy by the end of next week and that he would let me know at that time what sort of access birders will have to Sooner Lake.


Fri, 20 Jan 2006
From: Terry Mitchell
Subject: Re: Longspur Queries

John, I've had them several times this winter and last in the field on the SW corner of Lynn Lane(AB Jewel). Park on the SE side of Lynn Lane and walk west to the field past the fence on your left. About half the time I walk that field I kick up some Smiths.

Jan 29, 2006 Update - Please be aware there have been several reports of cars being vandalized in the parking lot of Lynn Lane Reservoir, so be certain to not leave any valuables in your vehicle. - JK


Mon, 23 Jan 2006
From: Jimmy Woodard
Subject: Re: Longspur Queries

The best places i know for each species are as follows:

Smith's Longspur - Purina Field (NW150&Lincoln)in OKC, Sooner Lake(access currently restricted to areas outside the OG&E Plant), north Tulsa Prairies area.

Chestnut-collared Longspur - T-intersection just west of Wichita Mtns Wildlife Refuge Headquarters - always a large number in the taller grass near the dogtown. watch out for the buffalo!!

McCown's Longspur - Kizziar's Feedlot (especially the shortgrass field near the hillside and the dogtown. please ask permission at the office to enter the property. No Tresspassing signs have recently gone up so bird from the road if you don't have permission to enter!!

Lapland Longspur.-.no specific spot. check any cultivated or shortgrass fields in the central and western parts of the state.


2006-01-09 8:21 AM
From:   vermilion_flycatcher@yahoo.com
Subject: Tallgrass Prairie: Longspurs and NO chickens

Hello, Oklahoma ~

Yesterday (Sunday), I escorted Konchog Norbu of Maryland to the Tallgrass Prairie, in search of two potential lifers for him:  Smith's Longspur and Gr. Prairie-Chicken.  As we approached the Prairie, we flushed a flock of sparrows off the road and as the birds perched in the trees next to the road, Konchog got the best look at Harris's Sparrows he'd ever seen and he was delighted.

When we found a likely-looking "longspur" short grassy field, I stopped the car and we got out to walk.  A pair of longspurs flew over our heads just then and Konchog took off after 'em, hoping they'd land where he could get a good look at 'em.  The next time I saw him, he was waaayyyy the hell over in a distant field lookin' at something, so far away that I needed my binocs to make sure it was him and not somebody else out there.  I dislike long hikes so I stayed near the car, got out my scope, and turned the "just Mallards" we'd noticed at a glance in a nearby small lake into Mallards, Hooded Mergansers, and Green-winged Teals, both of the latter yearbirds for me so I was pleased.  Every now and then I'd look over at the field where I'd last seen Konchog, mostly to see if he was still there (he was).... man, that boy can really travel!! (a luxury for the young, I guess)  At one glance, I noticed he'd flushed a large flock of small birds into the air, that circled around for a bit and then set down again.  A couple of them broke off from the flock and headed my direction, and while they never landed, I did hear their tinkling flight calls quite clearly as they flew over me.  When they were out of sight, I got back in the car and turned on my CD player to listen to all 4 longspur recordings, and was still listening when Konchog walked up and announced, "I think I got them!"  He got out his field guides and said, "yep, that's the one:  Smith's Longspur!!"  I pushed the buttons on the CD player and got to Smith's Longspur and, listening to their flight calls, confirmed that "THAT" is what I'd heard from the two little birds who flew over me.  So he got his lifer and I another yearbird.

Now for the chickens.

We headed for the Bison Loop, where I'd heard we might have some success finding the prairie-chickens, given that we already knew we were too late in the morning to hear them booming.  When we came across a herd of bison, Konchog got out to take their pictures, y'know, something the kids back home in Maryland don't see everyday.  We got nice looks at two Rough-legged Hawks (yearbird! and later watched the both of them flying together) and more No. Harriers than you can shake a stick at!  I'd almost subtitle this day at the Tallgrass "Harriers-R-Us"---if anyone needs Harrier for a lifebird, yesterday at the Tallgrass would've been the day to find 'em.

Well, continuing on, we stopped at another field, this one with long grasses where chickens might be hiding and the entire hill slopping down to a small pool of water; as dry as it is, it seemed likely that any birds we were looking for might be congregated near water, so again, we got out of the car for a hike.  The small of my back doesn't tolerate very long walks, and when I began thinking that Konchog might hike all the way back to Tulsa, I said, "you go on ahead; I'm going back to the car."  And bigod, if he didn't take off in another direction, heading downhill to circle around the water.  When he got back to the car, he'd brought back some chicken belly feathers that he'd found on the "other side of the water," but no chickens.  Not for lack of trying, I might add.

So we continued around the Loop, stopping at another small pond surrounded by tall grasses, this area also containing some small bushes where small birds (or chickens?) might flush to if they were so inclined.  I sat on the bank of the pond, watching 8-10 Amer. Tree Sparrows (yearbird!) scarfing up seeds from the sandy bank and Amer. Goldfinches in a small tree while Konchog marched off up the hill and the whole way around the pond.  Again, no chickens.  But I enjoyed sitting down and just watching the birds; it was a little breezy but the sun was warm and the air absolutely clear and perfect.

Anyway, we didn't find the chickens but Konchog got his longspurs and I got a number of yearbirds, so we returned to Tulsa, both of us happy with our results.

Cyndie Browning
vermilion_flycatcher@yahoo.com
www.adimview.com
Tulsa, OK


Date: 2006-01-21 8:36 PM
Subject: Tallgrass Prairie: Longspurs & Hawks & Eagles, O My!!
From:   vermilion_flycatcher@yahoo.com

Hello, Oklahoma ~

This morning I led a motley crew of about 15-16 birders up to the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Osage County.  Some of us are members of Tulsa Audubon Society and the rest were "special guests" from all around the country and other Tulsa area birders I hadn't met before.  We were blessed with bright, clear, and wind-less sunshine, even tho' it was colder than a witch-digger's brass monkey (somewhere around freezing) when we started out.

Our first stop was for sparrows and other little brown jobs flittin' back-and-forth along the road in a recently burned-out area.  American Tree, Savannah, Field, Song, and Harris's Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos mostly, but also a few Chickadees, Titmice, Red-bellied and Downy Woodpeckers, at least one Carolina Wren, Meadowlarks (all facing east so we decided they were probably Easterns), Blue Jays, Cardinals, and Goldfinches, not to mention the first of what would all too soon be recognized as "just another Harrier."  As I said 3 weeks ago, if Northern Harrier would be a lifebird for you, then the Tallgrass Prairie should be your next birding destination.

At the top of the plateau, we broke out of the roadside bushes and trees next to a field that's NOT fenced in by barbed wire so I suggested that we spread ourselves out across the field and walk down some distance (facing away from the sun), to see if we could scare up any longspurs.  Well, scare 'em up, we did!!  All Smith's, according to Bill Carrell (thanks, Bill, for your expertise), and we scared up a mess of 'em, at least 40-50.  To date, I have never actually SEEN a Smith's Longspur clearly, but I did see the buffy bellies on these guys and noticed the white feathers in their tails and now that I've heard it so often, I'd know that flight call anywhere.  Some of the group got much better looks at the birds than I did and I was pleased for them, especially since longspurs are a winter specialty much sought-after at the Tallgrass Prairie.  Well, after I'd ruined my loafers (forgot to change into my hiking boots) and we'd traipsed all the way down the field, we trudged back uphill to the cars and continued our tour.

We found a Loggerhead Shrike that had the decency to remain on the powerline next to the road so the group (strung out in _10_ cars!!) got to see him.  At a small pond, we found Mallards, Ring-necked Ducks, Green-winged Teal, and No. Shovelers before they spooked and flew off.  On down the road, we found Amer. Kestrels and the first of maybe a half-dozen Rough-legged Hawks that we saw all day.  I learned later that the Rough-leggeds were lifebirds for some of our group so that was a good feeling, too.  We definitely saw enough of them that everyone in the group agreed:  if I ever see one of those again, I'll definitely know what it is.

We pulled into a turnout after seeing several large hawks apparently squabbling in the air so we could get out of the cars and take a closer look.  One was obviously a mature Bald Eagle, but we were thrilled when we realized that THE OTHER _TWO_ WERE GOLDEN EAGLES!!!!! and they were really giving that Bald Eagle a bad time!!!!  I managed to latch onto one of the Goldens with my scope, getting a kick-ass look at his golden mantle, the dark wing linings (underside) with whiter feathers showing behind them out near the wingtips, and the whitish tail with broad dark band at the tip---this was an immature bird.  Of course, we never figured out why the young Goldies were chasin' after that Baldie, but the whole encounter was SOOO exciting to watch!!  I usually tell people that I've watched Golden Eagles fly over the picnic table area (near the Refuge HQ/gift shop) while I'm eating my lunch, but I've never seen TWO Goldies at the same time, let alone mixin' it up with a Baldie.  What a treat! and definitely the highlight of the morning.

Then someone noticed a small flock of Horned Larks fly into the field just beyond where our cars were parked, another lifebird for some of our group.  We had about 8-10 scopes on 'em so everyone got terrific looks at these dainty, dapper little birds.

Our next stop was the indoor toilets at the Refuge HQ (MO-O-OST welcome!!) followed by a leisure lunch break at the picnic tables where we were entertained by the antics of 4-6 Red-headed Woodpeckers, chickadees, Carolina Wren, and at least one Downy Woodpecker.  Bill Carrell said he heard a Hairy Woodpecker in a nearby tree but we were unable to locate it.  After lunch, we drove into Fouracre, didn't see much on the way, and now I never have to go there again.  And then after circling around the Bison Loop, everyone headed for home.  It was a perfect day to be out on the Prairie, especially with no wind anywhere, and all the Longspurs and Hawks and Eagles!! (and Horned Larks).  O My!!

Cyndie Browning


Date: 1/6/10
From: JOS GRZYBOWSKI j_grzybowski@sbcglobal.net

You can get a mix of longspurs coming into water, but by habitat, longspurs tend to segregate by species. The most likely species pairs occurring together are Lapland and McCown's. If you are far enough east (i.e., central OK), you may see Chestnut-collared and Smith's together. Depending on the mix of habitat, can get 3 species together; like in prairie-dog towns, might have Lapland, McCown's and Chestnut-collareds together. But, the third species will often be pretty rare. CHEERS, JOE Grzybowski


Date: 1/7/10
From: John Couch jrcouch60@yahoo.com

Joe, up on the "Otoe plains" where we go for the Sooner Lake CBC, I often find lapland longspurs flocking with horned larks. These flocks are usually right on the top of the hills where the grasses are short and/or overgrazed.

Smith's longspurs can often be found not far away where the grasses are mixed, some longer and some short.

Chustnut-collared longspurs can sometimes be found in the same prairies, where the grasses are longer.

Haven't seen any McCown's there, though.

John


Date: 1/18/11
From: Larry Hancock ihanturn@cableone.net

Since I have been looking for the longspurs out around Hackberry Flat the last couple of winters I have been wondering about their habit of always flying over power lines instead of staying low and flying under them. Also I have never seen they pause to perch on any brush or fence, actually they never seem to stay still for more than a few seconds. I don't see a red-tail hawk being much of a threat to them since I don't think they would waste the energy in a flat out chase for such a small meal and they are the most numerous hawk on poles. A merlin I figure would be a threat to them but they are always down low in brush or grasses waiting to ambush something flying by and I have never seen one on a power line or pole so I don't think the longspurs would associate them with a need to fly high over the lines. The electric field goes all around the wire and not just under it so something they would feel by going under the wire would be the same thing they would feel going close over the top so that doesn't seem to be a reason. I guess I am just curious about why the longspurs seem to be the only bird I have noticed with this unusual habit of having to never go under the power lines. Maybe some of you have noticed something like this with other birds behavior or have an idea of what the reason is behind it.

Larry Hancock Ardmore, OK


Date: 1/18/11
From: Timothy O'Connell tim.oconnell@okstate.edu

When flushed, longspurs will often fly up first, and figure out a lateral direction later. If this is a "real" behavior, rather than something I just seem to think they do, then my guess would be that it has served them well over the millennia as an evasive strategy against such terrifying creatures as merlins. While other sparrows might be better off hunkering down in dense vegetation, longspurs are so often in wide open areas without such cover that hunkering down doesn't do them any good. Neither, however, would flying fast close to the ground - you can be seen and caught by a falcon in a flat out level race. Flying up, however, might work for you.

Side note (anecdotal): In Adrian Monroe's work at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, he found some data that might suggest a level of avoidance for fields near utility poles by Smith's Longspur. Small sample sizes and other confounding attributes of those fields prevent a definitive statement about that, but it was pretty interesting to see it jump out as something important in his analysis . . .

~Tim


Date: 1/18/11
From: Steve Schafer steve@fenestra.com

I don't think it has anything to do with power lines per se; longspurs just always fly up before flying away. In fact, I'd say it was an important "field mark" for identifying a flock of longspurs vs. a flock of other birds. You can use it to easily identify a flock of longspurs rising out of a field as such, even if you happen to be driving by at 60 mph.

There are some other birds that have similar flight characteristics:

1) At least some pipits, including American and especially Sprague's Pipits (the latter sometimes seem to fly lterally straight up when flushed).

2) Most (?) species of larks, including Horned Larks. I've seen various Eurasian and African species of larks doing the same thing. However, my experience with the Skylarks on Vancouver Island is that they don't fly very high when flushed, but that could be because they're living in an area with a very heavy human presence.

3) Some, but definitely not all, species of cisticolas in Africa.

The one thing that seems to link all of these species together is that they are inhabitants of very open and very uniform country, with essentially no variation in topography or cover. It undoubtedly is a defense mechanism of some kind, but I can't speculate on the specifics. (This is especially true of the cisticolas; the ones that exhibit the behavior are just those that inhabit the most open country.)

I have seen longspurs occasionally perch on something other than the ground, although it is rare. On the occasion when a longspur perches on a barbed wire fence, it becomes easy to understand where the name "longspur" comes from. (Having a long rear claw is also a characteristic of birds of open country, but that's a topic for another discussion.)


Date: 1/18/11
From: Bob Fisher bobgfisher@comcast.net

This thread raises interesting questions for me that go beyond Larry Hancock's original question why longspurs never seem to fly under power lines. Birds, fish, herding mammals like Zebras and even World War II bombers, have confused predators by traveling togther in closely packed flocks, schools, herds and formations. One might think the predator would be guaranteed success just by attacking the flock and slashing around, but the flocking behavior apparently makes predation more difficult -- perhaps because some predators need to zero in on a particular individual to make a kill and the flocking behavior makes it impossible to follow the movements of any particular individual in the flock. Thus, falcons, predatory fish, lions and fighter planes often go after individuals that become separated from the group.

Longspurs, and Horned Larks don't flock in tight groups like blackbirds or Starlings. Instead, they bounce around, seemingly aimlessly, widely separated from one another. What's the s elective advantage in that behavior? Do they all become lookouts for a safe place to land?

Incidentally, I do believe that I have seen every one of the four species of longspur perched on a fence post. (The McCown's and Chestnut-collared sightings were on the breeding grounds). I distinctly remember a Smith's Longspur perched on a strand of barbed wire (10' from my car!) and another perched on a phone wire in Missouri. However, 99% of my longspur sightings have been on the ground or in the air.

Bob Fisher Independence, MO bobgfisher@comcast.net


Date: 1/18/11
From: jwoodard j.woodard@cox.net

to OKBIRDS in my experiences with longspurs, mostly in the winter, I don’t remember seeing one fly below a powerline. that doesn’t mean that they won’t, just that I’ve never witnessed it.

usually when I see a flock of longspurs get up, they fly up to about 50-100 feet, then fly around for several minutes in a loose flock in that bouncy flight style they have. for Horned Larks, they fly very low, usually a few feet high, and fly in a more direct style. they usually quickly land again after a short flight. the flight styles and habits are helpful to differentiate between longspurs and larks.

as Bob mentioned, I’ve never seen longspurs perched up during the winter. they always seem to be on the ground or in the air. I have seen them perched on their breeding grounds(Lapland, McCown’s, Chestnut-collared). I’ve never seen Smith’s on the breeding grounds.

Jimmy Woodard Mustang, OK


Date: Sun, Jan 23, 2011
Subject:  Saturday's Hackberry area photos, longspurs, lesser scaup, hawks
From: Larry Hancock <ihanturn@cableone.net>

It took a few hours but I finally got close to some lapland longspurs west of Grandfield for some pictures where I can actually see the long spur. There are lots of areas now with harvested cotton fields that haven't been tilled on one side of the road and short new green fields on the other that the longspurs seem to like flying back and forth to. It is interesting watching them go through the cotton balls and tossing them around. The longspurs are scattered all over the area around Hackberry now, mainly lapland but some McCown's mixed in also. The largest groups I saw were about a mile south and east of Hackberry along Hwy 70, 2 groups with hundreds of birds in each one, never close enough to the road for good pictures though. The wind picked up to about 25 mph most all day with clouds blocking the sun for long spells, anything in my car that wasn't covered in dust before is now. I didn't notice it too much at first until I took a drink of coffee from my thermos cup and got a mouth full of dirt. The reservoir is still shrinking but there were lots of ducks and a couple hundred pelicans. Two miles east of Hackberry I found a green field covered in thousands of geese. I had one friendly lesser scaup, purple sheen to head no matter which way he turned, let me know if I'm wrong because this is the closest I have been to any scaup. Sandhill cranes flew over all day heading south. I didn't spend much time hunting hawks today because of the wind and wanting to find longspurs but by the time I got to Hackberry I already had 47 red-tail hawks, 3 prairie falcons, lots of harriers, kestrels, shrikes and 2 ferruginous hawks. Still no lark buntings that I could find.

If you do go on Hackberry remember to have your license or passport, I got stopped first thing as I pulled in and even though the game warden knew me by name and where I was from he asked for my passport, he also gave me his card in case I ever had any questions he might could answer or so I could call in case I saw anything that didn't look right going on out there, which I thought was nice.

Photos are here, http://www.avianfocus.com/sw_ok_1-22-11/index.html. One thing I have noticed about viewing my pictures on the internet is that most all browsers (IE, Opera, Google Chrome) make them darker than they should be except Firefox and Safari. My monitor is calibrated and Firefox and Safari are color controlled web browsers so if the pictures look dark on your computer try Firefox or Safari and see if they don't look a little better.

Larry Hancock Ardmore, OK


Date: Fri, Dec 2, 2011
Subject: Norman 11/28/11
From: shwand shwand@comcast.net

I spent a few hours walking around the field north of Embassy Suites in Norman on Monday 11/28/11. The highlights were:

Merlin – 1 Wilson’s Snipe – 1 Horned Lark – 8+ American Pipit - 1 Sprague’s Pipit – 3-7 American Tree Sparrow - 2 Le Conte’s Sparrow – 1 Lapland Longspur – 25+ Smith’s Longspur – 10+ Chestnut-collared Longspur – 100+

Black-tailed Jackrabbit – 1 Striped Skunk - 1

It was great to see/hear three species of longspur in one location. I don’t recall seeing the Lapland’s noted in previous reports, so perhaps these are new arrivals. I got some photos of them on the ground and in flight. I was amazed at how well the longspurs hide in the short grass. I walked around for a few hours and was only able to see a total of four longspurs on the ground – three Laplands and one not identified. The longspur number estimates above are crude, but conservative.

Because of the below-freezing temperatures the night before, I was surprised to see three species of butterflies (Monarch, Orange Sulphur, Common Buckeye) flying. There was also a single Variegated Meadowhawk.

Also, where I was staying near Carney, Oklahoma over Thanksgiving, there was a Dark-eyed Junco flock consisting of mostly Slate-colored’s, plus a couple of Oregon’s and one Pink-sided. Per the Sibley Guide, the Pink-sided Junco was pretty far east of where it should have been. I’m wondering how unusual Pink-sided Juncos are in middle/eastern Oklahoma?

Alan Wight Petaluma, California


Date: Sun, Dec 4, 2011
Subject: Tulsa Area
From: Terry Mitchell terry@pecot.com

This afternoon I birded a field near Admiral and Mingo. I had 7-Smith’s Longspurs and 2-Sprague’s Pipits in a short walk. It looks like this could be a good place for these kind of birds. You can park at the intersection of Latimer Street and North 89th east Ave. I walk the field North from there to Pine Street. Terry.


Date: Sun, Jan 15, 2012
From: Jimmy Woodard j.woodard@cox.net

OKC Audubon had 16 participants on our field trip to the Embassy Suites longspur field. We saw about 200+ Chestnut-collared, 4-5 Smith’s and one Lapland Longspur. We also had one LeConte’s Sparrow and two Sprague’s Pipit. After walking the field,

Jimmy Woodard Mustang, OK

 

Where exactly is this field? Martha & David Evans

 

Dave and others, it’s just north of the Embassy Suites in Norman which is near I-35 and Robinson. Go east on Robinson to 24th St. turn left(north) and proceed past the Embassy Suites and thru the light at Rock Creek Road. In a couple of blocks the road curves slightly to the left. Look for an opening in the curb on the right. Pull into the field and park. Proceed on foot towards the shortgrass field next to the fence which is the west boundary of Max Westheimer Airport. The longspurs and other birds are generally in this shorter grass field which runs a couple hundred yards north-south. Hope this helps everyone out. OKC Audubon plans to put a description of this site on our Hot Spots section of our website at www.okc-audubon.org.

Thanks,

Jimmy Woodard  Oklahoma City

 

We know they are at the Purina field. Not in the numbers that Shackford saw. Before Thanksgiving I think I remember seeing a post that they were at the Embassy Suite field. Haven’t seen anything about those since then. Are they still there or did they move to the Purina field? I checked around Sooner Lake a couple of weeks ago and didn’t find any spurs at all. I found Laps over toward Tonkawa. Maybe someone will find some out there during the Holidays.

Garey Harritt Guthrie


Date: 12/21/12
From: David McNeely mcneely4@cox.net

I just came back from the Purina Field. There was water at the place that Gary mentioned, and where it was this morning, just a seep, probably from a leaking water line. This is across the street from a building with a sign for Integris Health and the OKC Thunder painted on it, not across from "Twist and Shout," which is down the street perhaps 30-40 yards.

During the 40 minutes that I was there from 4:20 until 5:00 pm no birds came to the water. When I first parked in the parking lot across the street a small flock of sparrow sized birds came up from far out in the field and flew overhead, but made no move toward the water. They disappeared to the west, and of course at the altitude they were flying, I could see no pattern or color with binoculars.

While I was there, I saw European Starlings, American Crows, a Great Blue Heron, and a very dark hawk that could have been a dark red tail or a rough legged, but the light by that time was such that I could discern no pattern as it sat in a tree along the ditch on the east side of the property (I was leaving, driving east on 33rd by that time).

mcneely -- David McNeely


Date: 12/21/12
From: Brian Davis bmdavis81@gmail.com

Dave,

When they are in the air, Smith's are usually calling and can be readily identified by the distinctive rattle they make: http://www.xeno-canto.org/species/Calcarius-pictus

Brian Davis

Norman/Joplin


Date: 12/22/12
From: Brian Davis bmdavis81@gmail.com

I made a quick swing by Embassy Suites in Norman this morning and found about 30 Smith's, with the largest group about 20. They were near that small block building where the only standing water was found . My understanding from Pete Dunne's book is that Smith's prefer some water with their three-awn, so maybe it is to dry most places?


Date: 11/10/13
From: Terry Mitchell terry@pecot.com

And here is some really current info on longspurs from a Tulsa birder he just shared last week:

The best spot in Tulsa for Smith's Longspurs , at least, is the field adjacent to the Spartan School of Aeronautics housing (dubbed "Spartan Field" of course). This is roughly between Pine, Memorial, 89th E. Ave and I-244. There is a gate across the road where you can park and walk in, I think at Latimer St., but I'm not sure. Also, there are occasionally Smiths in the field on the south side of Lynn Lane reservoir. Laplands might turn up anywhere in suitable habitat, but I've had good luck in recent years at the Bixby sod farms. For Chestnut-Collared and McCown's, southwest Oklahoma is your best bet


Date: Sun, Dec 1, 2013
Subject: SW OK birding
From: Kurt Meisenzahl meisenzk@sbcglobal.net

Greetings OK birders,

Friday morning I met Bala Chennupati, the birder from Alabama, at 7:00 am for a full day of birding in SW OK. We started at the Medicine Park lagoons and the dam at Lake Elmer Thomas where we found several species including Rock Wren, Spotted Towhees, and Rufous- crowned Sparrows but missed the Canyon Wren. Near the Easter Pageant area in the Wichita Mountains we walked up 3 Chestnut-collared Longspurs. The Rush Lake area was active and several species of sparrows, a male Common Goldeneye, and 4 Hooded Mergansers were some of the birds found here. We looked for longspurs just south of Quanah Lake but found only Savannah Sparrows and Killdeer. The Canyon Wren eluded us again at Quanah Dam. A Loggerhead Shrike was seen on Hwy 49 as we made our way toward the west entrance to the Wichitas. Mountain Bluebirds were finally located about ¾ of a mile past the west entrance on the right side of Hwy 49. We continuing west on Hwy 49 to Hwy 54. Here, we drove north on Hwy 54 looking, unsuccessfully, for longspurs. Expanding our search for McCown's Longspurs, we headed for Kizziar's Feedlot just west of Altus. Kizziar's appeared to be shut down and the cattle were gone. The gate to the office was locked and the entrances to the feedlot had not been used for several weeks. We drove the section line roads in the area and spotted some Horned Larks in a freshly plowed field. Several McCown's Longspurs were eventually located and we spent a least 30 minutes watching and photographing them. Heading back to the Wichitas we decided on one more try for the Canyon Wren. Unfortunately, we missed the wren again near Boulder Campground on the trail to the "Narrows". An Eastern Screech Owl posed for photographs but we quickly moved on to the Easter Pageant area to get better looks at Chestnut-collared Longspurs. This time we walked up 7 or 8 and Bala managed to photograph one on the ground. Our final stop was at the Elmer Thomas dam for one last look for the Canyon Wren. We missed the Canyon Wren again but the last sightings of the evening, as the sun was setting, were 3 Little Brown Bats flying along the lake shore and over the dam. Not counting the bats we saw more than 50 species on a great birding day.

Kurt Meisenzahl Lawton, OK


Date: Fri, Nov 29, 2013
Subject: smiths long spurs Edmond Purina field 11-27-13
From: Terri Underhill tunderhill@cox.net

Hello OKbirders, Wednesday I took a birder from Alabama to the Purina Fields in Edmond. We flushed around 30 Smith’s Longspurs at least 10 times. They were directly straight east from the John Deer Tractor building about 2/3 of the way in and kinda close to the tall grassy field. I took a California birder last year and they were in the same spot then. Other years they have been farther north and closer to 33rd. I believe this was the first sighting for the Purina field this year. We birded other areas in OKC but nothing unusual. When he dropped his car off at my house a Great Horned Owl was being mobbed by crows and jays in my yard. As soon as the owl flew off a Red-shouldered Hawk came in to see what all the ruckus was about. Totally made my day! I hope the owl was scoping out the nest I built for him last year in my front yard J

I also want to add that I purchased 50# of thistle at Tractor supply here in Edmond about 10 days ago. I filled three of my 3’ tube thistle feeders and the Goldfinch’s aren’t touching it. I think it must be a sack left from last year. Does anyone know how to tell when it’s old? I still have the sack and I don’t see any numbers that indicate a date. I paid almost $50.00 and want to take it back but I need to plead my case on why I’m returning it. It would be nice if I could prove it was old other than the Goldfinch aren’t touching it. I probably have close to 40 Goldfinch and no House Finch. For some reason the House Finch leave when the Goldfinch show up.

Good birding, Terri Underhill Edmond OK


Date: Thu, Feb 6, 2014
Subject: Lapland Longspurs and American Crows
From: Chad Ellis chad@ellisfamilyokc.com

Today I finally found my first Longspurs! Along the west side of Hinton Municipal Airport there were several large flocks of Lapland Longspurs. They were forced to feed at the roadside due to the snow cover. The speed limit on this section of the road is 65 mph. As each car and truck blasted by the flocks would take wing and circle to land again. The flocks often crossed dangerously close to the oncoming traffic.

Based on this observation, I began to scan the roadway and shoulders with my binoculars for possible casualties. The first one I spotted was frozen solid and half covered in snow. It had been hit several times and there was not much left. I then spotted another. However before I could get to I an enterprising American Crow snatched it. I ran toward where it landed with its snack. It took wing, Longspur in its beak. As I got my binoculars up I saw that there was another crow that joined it in flight. It too had a Longspur.

I sat and watched for quite some time. One particularly fast moving pickup truck hit two Lapland Longspurs at one time. I beat the crows to these two. I was able to get them off the roadway. They were both already dead. I took a good look at them and finally decided that they were Lapland Longspurs. Lifebird #340 and #296 in the ABA area! I took a few photos and left them for the crows.

As I passed this area again I saw my crow friends dutifully cleaning Longspurs from the roadway. I have a feeling the crows will stay associated with this flock for a while.

Along with the Longspurs and Crows there were a good number of Horned Larks and some Eastern Meadowlarks present as well.

Best Birding!

Chad Ellis


Date: Fri, Feb 7, 2014
Subject: Re: Lapland Longspurs and American Crows
From: William Diffin okiebirder@gmail.com

In my experience:

Lapland Longspurs are almost always found on bare, plowed fields or fields with a very short and incomplete covering of green growth, a half-inch tall or less. In this habitat they often are associated with Horned Larks.

McCown's Longspurs are frequently found in association with Lapland Longspurs in southwestern Oklahoma. At least that is true of most of the photos that have been posted to OKbirds. However there have been a few reports of them in low sere grassland habitats with patches of Aristida (three awn grass) that seem to attract the other two listed below.

Chestnut-collared Longspurs have been dependable in the Wichita Mountains NWR for many years. The habitat there is a mixture of long and short grass with some relatively sparsely covered ground. The short grass patches and sparsely covered ground seem to be the habitats of preference.

Smith's Longspurs have been somewhat dependable just west of the Westheimer airport in Norman and at the Purina field. The ground used by the Smith's in these places has a little taller and more continuous cover on average than the habitat used by Chestnut-collared at the Wichita Mountains. However the Smith's are often flushed from relatively short patches, several inches or less, short enough for them to see over with their heads up. One key may be moisture. The Smith's seem to be more numerous near the Westheimer airport when there are some puddles on the ground.

However my actual experience with all of these except the Laplands is not extensive, especially the McCown's, and others should contribute their observations.

Bill Diffin, OKC


Date: Fri, Feb 7, 2014
Subject: Re: Lapland Longspurs and American Crows
From: John Couch jrcouch60@yahoo.com

To respond to your question about longspurs' preferred habitat, Nan, I think that Smith's longspurs prefer heavily grazed or burned native prairies. This year there are not so many in the Otoe prairies, because last year was a very good growing year and the tall grasses were very high (even the buffalograss was nearly a foot high). In most places the grazing pressure was not enough to reduce the grass cover down to where the longspurs like it, even though the Aristida grasses were abundant. Lapland longspurs usually associate with horned larks, and both of those species like overgrazed areas, such as pastures with a lot of cattle and lots of manure. Both of these species also like burned areas, and fields that are fallow and just plain dirt (I have no idea what they are finding to eat).. Chestnut-collared longspurs seem to be able to tolerate fairly tall grasses, but I don't see so many of them. McCown's longspurs also seem to like fallow fields with bare dirt (but I have only seem them once).

One possible hypothesis is that back in the ages "when the buffalo roamed" the prairies in great numbers, longspurs favored those areas heavily grazed (and trampled) by them, as well as burned areas.(Extensive wildfires were also common back then).

I have also seen flocks of Lapland longspurs and horned larks along highways, especially near grain spills, when pastures are snow covered,s Chad saw recently.

Those are some of the observations I have made. Perhaps others can also chime in.

Date: Friday, February 7, 2014
From: RENANNE BAKER rabbit12@SBCGLOBAL.NET

Great find ! While reading a recent Minnesota birding blog, it mentioned the decline of native prairies . However in South Dakota, the blogger noted that the Longspurs preferred DISFTURBED PRAIRIES, such as burns,plowed,etc. . How does that match Oklahoma birders experience?

Nan Baker Little city Marshall county,OK.


Date: Sun, Feb 9, 2014
Subject: I finally found the Longspurs
From: Lewis Pond lewisp4909@aol.com

I finally found the Longspurs! At about 1 pm today (Sunday), Diana and I found a large flock (too many to count) of Lapland Longspurs and Horned Larks in a cow pasture on 116th Street North. From Tulsa, go North on Hwy 75. Exit onto 116th Street. Go East on 116th Street for about half a mile (you will be right between Yale and Sheridan). On the South side of 116th, you should see a cow pasture with a large white gate. There is a small pond on the West side of the property. There are no buildings on the property. The flock was near the back fence. We were fairly sure what they were but found the land owner (who called them "sparrows and meadowlarks") and he gave us the OK to drive through the gate. There they were!

Lewis Pond


Date: Wed, Jan 14, 2015
Subject: RFI sites for longspurs
From: ML2x ml2x@sbcglobal.net

There are a few CCLO’s at the Meers turnoff in the Wichita Mountain NWR. Walk the grasslands N of the road on both sides. We didn’t have any Smith’s there on the Christmas count but there are usually a few around. There are 2 prairie dog towns there as well that also hold CCLO’s. As for the MCLO’s, we usually see them west of Altus but have not as of yet this year. We did have a small group of 15 in a dog town in Jefferson county east of Waurika last weekend. If you want further details, feel free to email me.

Mary and Lou Truex ml2x@sbcglobal.net Lawton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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