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Lewis & Clark as Naturalists
The Collection: Species Details Lewis and Clark as Naturalists
Bird    Species Name:
Calcarius mccownii

Common Name:
Mccown's Longspur


Marias River, Montana
On Marias River
  June 4, 1805

Larks as I shall call them

Knowing the habitat of this bird, one could predict the location of Lewis and Clark to be in the western short grass prairie.  These birds both feed and nest on the ground in arid regions with sparse vegetation.  They are well-adapted to North America's native short grass prairie.  The prairie is a harsh environment, dry and hot in the summer, windy and bitter cold in the winter, yet these sparrow-sized birds manage to survive by feeding on grass seeds and insects.  As prairie has been replaced by agriculture, McCown's longspur has declined.  Lewis' delightful description of tens of males performing mating flights, and nests all around the ground is no longer a common phenomenon.

Longspurs belong with New World sparrows and Old World buntings (Old world sparrows are finches and not closely related to those in North America).  They are not larks.

Journal Entries:
Capt. Lewis, June 4, 1805--In these plains I observed . . .   also a small bird which in action resembles the lark, it is about the ...  more>>

References Lawrence, George Newbold, , Annals of the Lyceum of Natural History of New York., 1851

See following caption
McCown's longspur in profile

See following caption
McCown's longspur

See following caption
McCown's longspur feet

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