Lapland Longspur Calcarius lapponicus


Justification of Red List Category
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Population justification
The global population is estimated to number c.150,000,000 individuals (Rich et al. 2004). The European population is estimated at 5,340,000-12,700,000 pairs, which equates to 10,700,000-25,300,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). Europe forms approximately 15% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 71,000,000-169,000,000 mature individuals, placed in the range 50,000,000-199,999,999 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed.

Trend justification
This species has undergone a small or statistically insignificant increase over the last 40 years in North America (data from Breeding Bird Survey and/or Christmas Bird Count: Butcher and Niven 2007). The European population trend showed a moderate decline between 1980 and 2013 (EBCC 2015).


This species breeds in tundra at the edge of the tree-line, where it is found in sedges (Carex) and grasses (Poaceae) interspersed with heather and small trees such as Lapland rhododendron (Rhododendron lapponicum), tamarack (Larix laricina), spruce (Picea) and willow (Salix). In Greenland, it is more often found inland than on the coast and prefers wet swampy land in a low carpet of heath, with crowberry (Empetrum) and dwarf birch (Betula glandulosa). On migration and in winter it is found in open areas and farmland (Rising and Christie 2016). Egg-laying generally occurs between May and June. The nest is a cup of dry grass, leaves and moss, lined with hair and feathers, placed on the ground, usually near a clump of vegetation or occasionally under a tipped rock, and generally concealed in vegetation. Clutches are normally four to six eggs. In the breeding season it feeds principally on invertebrates and mainly on seeds in the winter. The species is migratory with European birds wintering mainly in south European Russia and Ukraine and those from Greenland in North America and north-west Europe (Snow and Perrins 1998). Birds from Alaska winter further south in North America (Rising and Christie 2016).


As this species feeds in agricultural lands, some mortality may result from the ingestion of pesticides. Large numbers are known to have been killed by collisions on migration. In 1904 an estimated 1,500,000 individuals were killed during a snowstorm in south-west Minnesota and north-west Iowa (Rising and Christie 2016). In addition the species may be threatened by future climate change (Virkkala et al. 2008).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
Bern Convention Appendix II. EU Birds Directive Annex II and III. There are currently no known conservation measures for this species within its European range.

Conservation Actions Proposed
To reduce the impact of climate change, large areas of continuous habitats should be conserved and protected in a connected network of protected areas (Virkkala et al. 2008). Research should investigate the potential impact of pesticide use.


Text account compilers
Ashpole, J, Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Calcarius lapponicus. Downloaded from on 26/03/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 26/03/2023.