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Lapland Longspur

As one of the most abundant and visible terrestrial bird breeding in the Arctic, the Lapland Longspur is certainly the most common passerine nesting on Bylot Island. During the summer, it can be observed nesting on the tundra, between two hummocks (small mounds in the ground), or feeding on seeds and small insects.

male Lapland Longspur - Bruant lappon mâle © Austin Reed

As other Arctic-nesting birds, Lapland Longspurs are constrained by a very short time period during which they can reproduce. Summer is short in the Arctic and fledglings need a certain time to grow enough to be ready for the fall migration. In these conditions, it has been noticed that earlier nesters have a better chance to successfully reproduce (have young and bring them to maturity).

Lapland Longspur nest – nid de Bruant lappon © Esther Lévesque

Studying the breeding ecology of the Lapland Longspurs can provide interesting insights on how Arctic-breeding songbirds adapted to their harsh breeding environment. For this reason, Lapland Longspur nests are searched and monitored in the Qarlikturvik Valley of Bylot Island. Nests are found opportunistically, when a female flushes from the nest as we walk nearby. If possible the egg laying date (date when the first egg is laid) is noted, as well as the hatching date (date when the first egg hatches) and the clutch size (number of eggs in the nest). All nestlings and adults are also marked with a leg band, which could help identifying birds in the future.



Egg-laying and Egg-hatching

Over the years, egg-laying and egg-hatching dates varied, probably reflecting variations in the environmental conditions themselves. Interestingly, on three occasions over last four years (2004 to 2007) longspurs have been initiating their nest from 3 to 5 days later than usual. On average, the first egg is laid 18 June and the first hatching date is 3 July.


Clutch Size

As for the laying dates, mean clutch sizes vary from year to year. The overall average number of eggs laid by Bylot Island Lapland Longspurs is 5.3 per nest.

Nesting success

Nesting success represents the proportion of all nests that hatched at least one egg. On Bylot Island, the main cause of nesting failure for longspurs is predation. On average, nesting success is 48% but this parameter varies considerably among years (minimum: 9%, maximum: 82%). It is interesting to note that longspurs had high nesting successes during the 2000, 2004 and 2007 lemming peaks.