Calcarius Ornatus – Chestnut-Collared Longspur

Calcarius ornatus - Chestnut-collared longspur in the United States

The chestnut-collared longspur or in Latin called the Calcarius ornatus is a Calcariidae bird. It is a small ground-feeding bird that eats seeds. It breeds in prairie habitats in the north-central region of the United States and Canada and winters in Mexico.

Historically, the Chestnut-collared Longspur bred in areas that had recently been grazed by bison or were burned by fire. Although it is common today, it still avoids nesting in areas that are protected from grazing, instead favoring pastures and mowed areas like airfield runways, as well as grazed native prairie habitats.

Quick Overview: Calcarius Ornatus – Chestnut-Collared Longspur
Body size: Around 5.75- 6.5 in (15-17 cm) in length and weighed 20 g (0.7oz)
Main colors: Black, Brown, Gray, White, Chestnut-Brown,
Range: North-Central and Southern United States, introduced in Mexico
Migratory Bird: Yes
Best time of the year to see in the U.S.: January, February, June, July, August, September, December
Conservation Status: Near Threatened

Chestnut-collared longspur Description

The Chestnut-collared Longspur is the smallest of the four species in the genus Calcarius. . This genus’ birds all have a long, slender claw from the hind toe. Males have longer wings and tails than females. This sparrow-like bird has brown upper parts, black breasts and flanks, and a pale gray belly. Beauteous face with a black stitch The throat is white, with a chestnut-brown nape. The tail is black with white outer tail feathers.

Calcarius ornatus - Chestnut-collared longspur in the United States
Calcarius Ornatus – Chestnut-Collared Longspur. Photo by: Alan Schmierer


This species is 5.75- 6.5 in (15-17 cm) in length and weighed 20 g (0.7oz). Its wingspan could range around 10-10.75 in (25-27 cm).  


The chestnut-collared longspur forages on the ground for seeds, insects, and spiders, or gleans seeds from vegetation and grasses. Their diet includes invertebrates such as crickets, grasshoppers, and beetles during the breeding season.


In addition to short/mixed-grass prairie, breeding habitat includes tallgrass prairie, domesticated grass pastures, and airstrips. The association of nests with dried-out intact cow dung patties is unknown.


Chestnut-collared longspurs are ground-dwelling birds. They have an undulating flight pattern and are agile flyers. Females and males may leave their territories to forage, and will often bob their heads while walking. Chestnut-collared longspurs have been observed dust-bathing as well as bathing in rain puddles.

Calcarius Ornatus Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Subphylum: Chelicerata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Calcariidae
  • Genus: Calcarius
  • Species: Calcarius ornatus

Best time of the year to see

The best time to see these birds in the United States are during summer (June to September) and winter (December to February).

Distribution of the Chestnut-collared longspur in the USA

This bird prefers the north-central region of the United States and Canada. They migrate to Mexico and the southern US in the winter.

The Chestnut-collared longspur can be found in the following states in the United States – Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Calcarius Ornatus – Chestnut-Collared Longspur

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