Get to Know the Smith’s Longspur

Smith's Longspur, breeding female. www.allaboutbuirds.org. © Andy Johnson, Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, July 2011

Smith’s Longspur, breeding female. www.allaboutbuirds.org. © Andy Johnson, Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, July 2011

This is Passport to Texas

Texas is the place to see migrating bird species in the winter months. Just be prepared for seasonal changes in their plumage. The Smith’s Longspur, for example, is usually a brightly patterned songbird.

In the winter, they lose their bright, breeding plumage and they become very drab.

Ornithologist, Cliff Shackelford says another factor that makes this species somewhat of a challenge to spot is that it lays low.

They’re grassland skulkers, meaning: they don’t sit up on fence posts or limbs very often, or at all. They really like to sit on the ground in the grass.

Their drab winter feathers make them even harder to spot in the dry brown grasses. But it can be done—if but for a moment.

So, the way to see a Smith’s Longspur is to be in the right part of the state. Maybe Hunt county; that’s a really good place. And, if you had the right grass at the right height—about ankle deep—you’ll kick ‘em up. And there’ll be 50 to 500, and they’ll fly, and they make a rattling sound. That’s really all you get. You don’t really get to look at them very well. When they land back down in the ground near you, they are in the grass and very hard to see.

A decline in the Smith’s Longspur in Texas…that’s tomorrow.

The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

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