Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Smith's Longspur - Calcarius pictus
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General Comments The Smith's Longspur is one of the less common birds that nest in North America, and it migrates from its Arctic tundra breeding habitat to winter in a small area of the southern Great Plains, often at airports. Fortunately, North Carolina has four accepted records, spanning each of the three provinces, but all from winter or early spring. The first state record, from 1946, published in The Auk, reveals a bygone era of birding: "The most unfortunate part of this occurrence was my failure to collect the bird. I had been combing the field with three friends who were carrying shotguns, but they had gone ahead when I had stopped. On realizing the desirability of securing the specimen, I hurried after them and was met by a burst of gunfire around me. Startled, I looked up to see a flock of almost three hundred Meadowlarks rising and being fired upon not only by my friends but by nine other wild-shooting hunters also. I flattened myself in a fairly dry ditch until the barrage ceased, and when it was over neither the juncos nor the Smith's Longspur could be found."
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SA
Global Rank G4G5
Coastal Plain Accidental. The sole record was one observed at the Lumberton Airport (Robeson) on 28 Dec 1946* (Auk 65:456-57).
Piedmont Accidental. An adult male found in Chatham on 11 Jan 1981 was later collected and delivered to the NC Museum of Natural Sciences* [Chat 45:46 link]. Two birds were seen and photographed at the Charlotte Motor Speedway near Harrisburg (Cabarrus) from 2-20 Dec 1987* (Am. Birds 42:251; photo). One was reported in the literature from the Pee Dee NWR in the winter of 1997-98, but this report was questioned by the CBC editor and was never submitted to the NC BRC for review.
Mountains Accidental. A female or non-breeding plumaged male, together with two Lapland Longspurs for comparison, was photographed at Hooper Lane (Henderson) on 26 Mar 2004* [Chat 69:33 link]. Several photos are posted on the Carolina Bird Club Photo Gallery.
Finding Tips
Attribution LeGrand[2023-03-28], LeGrand[2018-02-01], LeGrand[2012-09-29]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.