Birds Vol 1 #4 – Smith’s Painted Longspur

Smith's Longspur

Smith’s Longspur for Birds Illustrated by Col F. M. Woodruff

Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited

Vol 1. April, 1897 No. 4




MITH’S Painted Longspur is usually considered a rare bird in the middle west, but a recent observer found it very common in the fields. He saw twenty-five on October 3rd of last year. They were associated with a large flock of Lapland Longspurs. On account of its general resemblance to the latter species it is often overlooked. It is found in the interior of North America from the Arctic coast to Illinois and Texas, breeding far north, where it has a thick, fur-lined, grass nest, set in moss on the ground. Like the Lapland Longspur, it is only a winter visitor. It is not so generally distributed as that species, the migrations being wholly confined to the open prairie districts. Painted Longspurs are generally found in large flocks, and when once on the ground begin to sport. They run very nimbly, and when they arise utter a sharp click, repeated several times in quick succession, and move with an easy undulating motion for a short distance, when they alight very suddenly, seeming to fall perpendicularly several feet to the ground. They prefer the roots where the grass is shortest. When in the air they fly in circles, to and fro, for a few minutes, and then alight, keeping up a constant chirping or call. They seem to prefer the wet portions of the prairie. In the breeding seasons the Longspur’s song has much of charm, and is uttered like the Skylark’s while soaring. The Longspur is a ground feeder, and the mark of his long hind claw, or spur, can often be seen in the new snow. In 1888 the writer saw a considerable flock of Painted Longspurs feeding along the Niagara river near Fort Erie, Canada.

The usual number of eggs found in a nest is four or five, and the nests, for the most part, are built of fine dry grasses, carefully arranged and lined with down, feathers, or finer materials similar to those of the outer portions. They are sometimes sunk in an excavation made by the birds, or in a tuft of grass, and in one instance, placed in the midst of a bed of Labrador tea. When the nest is approached, the female quietly slips off, while the male bird may be seen hopping or flying from tree to tree in the neighborhood of the nest and doing all he can to induce intruders to withdraw from the neighborhood. The eggs have a light clay-colored ground, marked with obscure blotches of lavender and darker lines, dots, and blotches of purplish brown. The Longspur is a strong flier, and seems to delight in breasting the strongest gales, when all the other birds appear to move with difficulty, and to keep themselves concealed among the grass. While the colors of adult males are very different in the Longspur family, the females have a decided resemblance. The markings of the male are faintly indicated, but the black and buff are wanting.

Smith's Longspur (Calcarius pictus) ©USFWS

Smith’s Longspur (Calcarius pictus) ©USFWS

Lee’s Addition:

Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? (Matthew 6:26 KJV)

“If you come across a bird’s nest in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs and the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young. (Deuteronomy 22:6 ESV)

The Smith’s Longspur, Calcarius pictus, is a small ground-feeding bird from the family Calcariidae, which also contains the longspurs.

These birds have short cone-shaped bills, streaked backs, and dark tails with white outer retrices. In breeding state plumage (mostly formed by worn basic plumage), the male has pumpkin orange throat, nape, and underparts contrasting with an intricate black-and-white face pattern. The white lesser coverts are quite pronounced on a male in spring and early summer. Females and immatures have lightly streaked buffy underparts, dark crowns, brown wings with less obvious white lesser coverts, and a light-colored face. The tail is identical at all ages.

This bird breeds in open grassy areas near the tree line in northern Canada and Alaska. The female lays 3 to 5 eggs in a grass cup nest on the ground. These birds nest in small colonies; males do not defend territory. Both males and females may have more than one mate. The parents, one female and possibly more than one male, feed the young birds.

In winter, they congregate in open fields, including airports, in the south-central United States.

Migration is elliptical, with northbound birds staging in Illinois in the spring and southbound birds flying over the Great Plains in the fall.

These birds forage on the ground, gathering in flocks outside of the nesting season. They mainly eat seeds, also eating insects in summer. Young birds are mainly fed insects.
The song is a sweet warble that’s inflected at the end, somewhat reminiscent of Chestnut-sided Warbler. The call is a dry rattle, like a shorterned version of the call of a female Brown-headed Cowbird. It is noticebaly drier than that of Lapland Longspur.

Audubon named this bird after his friend Gideon B. Smith.

Birds Illustrated by Color Photograhy Vol 1 April 1897 No 4 – Cover

Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited – Introduction

The above article is the first article in the monthly serial for February 1897 “designed to promote Knowledge of Bird-Live.” These include Color Photography, as they call them, today they are drawings. There are at least three Volumes that have been digitized by Project Gutenberg.

To see the whole series of – Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited


(Information from Wikipedia and other internet sources)

Next Article – The American Cross Bill and The Legend 

Previous Article – The Purple Gallinule

ABC’s Of The Gospel


Smith’s Longspur – All About Birds

Smith’s Longspur– Wikipedia

Ad for Vol #4 - Birds Illustrated by Color Photography, 1897

Ad for Vol #4 – Birds Illustrated by Color Photography, 1897



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