Chestnut-collared Longspur Named 2016 Bird of the Year

Chestnut-collared longspur Image: aba.org
Chestnut-collared longspur
Image: aba.org

An academic psychiatrist with over 30 years of experience teaching at medical schools, Dr. Gregg Gorton serves as an Associate Clinical Professor of psychiatry at the Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Dr. Gregg Gorton is also a member of the American Birding Association (ABA), which maintains a tradition of naming one avian species as the Bird of the Year.

The ABA’s previous Birds of the Year list includes a variety of avian species with a single commonality: the chance of encountering the species is high. The Bird of the Year program typically features flashy, charismatic birds that birders can encounter with a certain sense of regularity. However, the ABA’s choice for the 2016 Bird of the Year reflects a slight deviation from the tradition due to the extra effort birders must put forth in order to find it.

Considered by some as a “birder’s bird,” the chestnut-collared longspur is the recipient of the 2016 Bird of the Year title. The “birder’s bird” term refers to the effort required to find it. It lives in parts of the country inhabited and visited by few birders, thus requiring birders to seek it out actively in order to see it. Furthermore, the bird possesses a reputation for puzzling researchers with its taxonomy, which has undergone multiple status changes in recent years. It historically bred in areas populated by bison or recently disturbed by fire but is now seen in mowed airstrips, cattle pastures, and short-grass prairies.

Chestnut-collared longspurs are socially monogamous on average, although extra-pair copulation does occur. A medium-sized, sparrow-like bird, it possesses a short, pointed bill and white tail feathers with a black triangle shape in the center. Males and females differ in coloration, with males featuring more colorful plumage around the neck and throat. These colors only appear in adult specimens during the summer months, however, as both males and females sport sparrow-like coloring in the winter.

For more information about the ABA’s Bird of the Year, visit aba.org/boy.

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