Approximately ½ mile north of the intersection of 105th West and 113th North near Idaho Falls, Idaho
HABITAT WHERE THE BIRD WAS OBSERVED
Grasslands and Farm land West of Idaho Falls
SIGHTING DURATION, CONDITIONS, and EQUIPMENT USED
Mostly Sunny following a cold fromt and Temperature around sighting was around 32° Approximately 3” of snow cover over fields
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?
Sibley's App on I-touch
DESCRIPTION OF THE BIRD(s)
Two Separate birds with a clear under belly with no streaking, short tails with a longer primary extension given them a chunky look. A yellowish breast band with some black one on only yellow on the other, some red in the Medium coverts observed, plain faces with a pink bill. Some grayish wash to the belly. Clear in front of the eye with a broad supercilium.
BEHAVIOR OF THE BIRD(s)
Actively feeding along the road with Horned Larks, American Pipets and a Lapland Longspur
HOW AND WHEN DID YOU POSITIVELY IDENTIFY THE BIRD, AND WHAT CLINCHED THE IDENTIFICATION FOR YOU?
I recognized the distinct size and behavior of a longspur with the horned lark. Since I have observed both McCown’s and Chestnut-collared in Montana on several occasions I immediately thought it was a McCowen’s because of Plain face and lack of any streaking on the chest and belly. I also noted more visible white on the upper part of the tail near the undertail coverts. I consulted my app and verified other features such as the pink bill and longer primary projects with the short tail.
HOW DID YOU ELIMINATE SIMILAR SPECIES? WHAT WERE THEY?
After the observation I checked the entire features noted above to make sure I was correct on my Sibley app which eliminated Chestnut-collared as the Chestnut-collared would have a gray bill as well as a short primary projection and some blurry streaks. Chestnut-collared would also have a dark rear auriculars and more color in front of the eye. Also eliminated the more expected Lapland Longspur by the lack of the broad streaks down the flanks as well as the rufous coverts on the greater coverts rather than in the medium coverts like this longspur had. Lapland Longspurs also have very dark full frame around the auriculars. This bird did not. It also helps to have a Lapland Longspur sitting next to it during the observation.
WHAT IS YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH THIS (AND SIMILAR) SPECIES?
First observation of a fall (basic plumage) McCowens Longspur however I have had experience with both McCown’s and Chestnut-collared in Montana in alternate plumage.
DESCRIBE YOUR GENERAL BIRDING EXPERIENCE
Actively birded over the last 15 years with numerous trips to Montana, Florida, Texas and Arizona.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION (If any)
A picture is attached of one of the McCowens next to the Lapland Longspur courtesy of Darren Clark.
WERE PHOTO(S), VIDEO, AND/OR AUDIO OBTAINED FROM THIS SIGHTING?
FIRST ROUND VOTING:
Description and photo confirm the identification of McCown's Longspur.
Description and diagnostic photo illustrate key plumage traits and different structure (long "spurs") that help separate it from the most similar other species, Chestnut-sided.
Fall/Winter longspurs can be very tough. However, observer correctly notes several key field marks indicating McCown’s Longspur (Rhynchophanes mccownii), namely clear underparts, pale face with broad supercilium, long primary extension, rusty median coverts, and pinkish bill. Would have hoped for a little more discussion of the birds structure, particularly relative bill size, but “short tails with longer primary extension giving them a chunky look”, is supportive.
With respect to the observer’s comparative analysis, would like to have had a discussion of Smith’s Longspur (Calcarius pictus) as they can be pretty plain in basic plumage. However, McCown’s are generally “muddier” and have much thicker bills, and both characteristics are indicated in the good photo attached. I also feel the photos are diagnostic as well. Good record!
This identification looks correct to me.
diagnostic field marks given and careful elimination of similar longspurs
Diagnostic photo and described well
Right hand bird indicates key features of female/1st winter-type McCown's. Face plainer and drabber than Lapland lacking rufous greater coverts. Flanks unstreaked. Bill larger and slightly blunter than Lapland.