private ranch in Pahsimeroi Valley, Custer Co., ID
HABITAT WHERE THE BIRD WAS OBSERVED
meadow/pasture with a mix of dry and wet patches – the birds landed in an especially short grass/dry area
SIGHTING DURATION, CONDITIONS, and EQUIPMENT USED
clear, light breeze
DID YOU TAKE NOTES?
No, not at all
DID YOU CONSULT A FIELD GUIDE OR OTHER REFERENCE WORK?
Yes, during the observation
WHICH GUIDE(S) OR REFERENCE(S): DID YOU CONSULT?
DESCRIPTION OF THE BIRD(s)
I first heard the ~3-note rattle call and started looking for birds on the move – soon we picked up two small songbirds in flight with extensive white in outer tail feathers and continued to hear the rattle call a few times.
BEHAVIOR OF THE BIRD(s)
first detected in flight and they flew far off to W & we figured that was it. Several minutes later they flew back eastwards calling and we followed them until they landed. We walked the 400+ yards to the area and eventually (they were very low to ground & camouflaged!) found them feeding on a slight rise in a pasture with sparse grass and lots of cow pies.
HOW AND WHEN DID YOU POSITIVELY IDENTIFY THE BIRD, AND WHAT CLINCHED THE IDENTIFICATION FOR YOU?
I know the call from numerous sightings in Montana and elsewhere in the Great Plains but it’s not too different from other longspurs, especially Chestnut-collared, so once I saw how much white was in the tail and the pale grayish-brown overall appearance, I was sure they were McCown’s. Then, we confirmed once we found them on the ground and saw the larger beaks plus relatively plain overall look.
HOW DID YOU ELIMINATE SIMILAR SPECIES? WHAT WERE THEY?
The most similar species are the other Rhynchophanes longspurs but the rattle call is distinct as is the extent of white in the tail (mostly white). Larger beak than Chestnut-collared and paler, plainer coloration on females.
WHAT IS YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH THIS (AND SIMILAR) SPECIES?
I have seen many hundreds in Montana and the Dakotas. This is my 2nd sighting in Idaho.
DESCRIBE YOUR GENERAL BIRDING EXPERIENCE
25+ years of experience; avid birder
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION (If any)
see attached digiscope pics and audio file – also, the call note file is archived at xenocanto (https://www.xeno-canto.org/419981) and pics/audio are in the eBird checklist (https://ebird.org/pnw/view/checklist/S45492356).
WERE PHOTO(S), VIDEO, AND/OR AUDIO OBTAINED FROM THIS SIGHTING?
FIRST ROUND VOTING:
I couldn't make out the rattle on the audio file but the photos look good for McCown's Longspur.
Could not tell much from the photos but the description was convincing and similar species eliminated.
Excellent documentation including description, discussion and elimination of other species, diagnostic photos, diagnostic audio.
I thought that this was a totally convincing report.
Good description (and story) and great awareness of the possibility of these birds out there. Observer notes the key differences with potential similar species, particularly the next most likely candidate, Chestnut-collared Longspur (Calcarius ornatus). Attached photos confirm the large bill structure and plain plumage characteristics of this species. Excellent find and potentially important to the understanding of distribution of this species in Idaho – time will tell.
Description, habitat , behavior and photos are all consistent with McCown’s Longspur.