Calcariidae – Longspurs & Snow Buntings

Snow Bunting Plectrophenax nivalis ©DGE Robertson (Creative Commons) Website

Calcariidae is a small family of passerine birds. It includes longspurs and snow buntings. There are six species in three genera worldwide, found mainly in North America and Eurasia. They are migratory and can live in a variety of habitats including grasslands, prairies, tundra, mountains, and beaches.

Members of Calcariidae range in mass from around 20 grams (Chestnut-collared Longspur) to around 42 grams (McKay’s Bunting). Species have brown, grey, and white plumage, with dark brown or black irises. The legs of the snow bunting and McKay’s bunting are dark grey or black, while legs of other species in the family range from dull pink to brown.

DNA sequencing has revealed that this small group of 6 species formally lumped in with the Emberizidae is actually a family in its own right, the Calcariidae; the members of which are set out below:

McCown’s Longspur Calcarius mccownii
Lapland Longspur Calcarius lapponicus
Smith’s Longspur Calcarius pictus
Chestnut-collared Longspur Calcarius ornatus

Snow Bunting Plectrophenax nivalis
McKay’s Bunting Plectrophenax hyperboreus

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 6

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