As daily temperatures creep above freezing, the prairie begins to thaw just in time for new life to arrive. Soon there will be copper-colored bison calves, appearing each morning where there were none the day before. Insects emerge, much to the delight of Greater Sage Grouse that have been snacking on shrubs throughout the winter, and more grassland birds arrive every week to join the feast. Chestnut-collared Longspurs (Calcarius ornatus), pictured here, have begun their return to the Northern Plains for breeding season and to raise their young. Even though they are highly adapted to in the wide open – including making their nests on the ground – these colorful birds still love a good perch for singing!
Starting in Mexico, the journey of Chestnut-collared Longspurs is a stunning achievement and sure sign of changing seasons. Listen to their song below to add some spring to your day, and discover other springtime happenings on the prairie in our latest blog post for National Geographic.
Photo by Dave Shumway