Nebraska Game and Parks Commission


Date of this Version



McCown’s Longspur (Rhynchophanes mccownii) A Species Conservation Assessment for The Nebraska Natural Legacy Project. Prepared by Melissa J. Panella, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Wildlife Division, November 2012


The primary goal in development of at-risk species conservation assessments is to compile biological and ecological information that may assist conservation practitioners in making decisions regarding the conservation of species of interest. The Nebraska Natural Legacy Project recognizes the McCown’s Longspur (Rhynchophanes mccownii) as a Tier I at-risk species. Some general management recommendations are made here regarding the McCown’s Longspur (MCLO); however, conservation practitioners will need to use professional judgment to make specific management decisions based on objectives, location, and a multitude of variables. This resource was designed to share available knowledge of MCLO that will aid in the decision-making process or in identifying research needs for the benefit of the species. Species conservation assessments should not be stagnant documents but rather will need to be updated as new scientific information becomes available. The Nebraska Natural Legacy Project focuses efforts in the state’s Biologically Unique Landscapes (BULs), but it is recommended that whenever possible, practitioners make considerations for a species throughout its range in order to increase the outcome of successful conservation efforts.

Criteria for selection as Tier I Declining; PIF Watch List

Estimated population in NE 200 - 1,000 Estimate based on BBA field surveys

Trends since 2005 in NE Unknown

Range in NE Panhandle - primarily Sioux, Scotts Bluff, Banner, and Kimball counties

Habitat Shortgrass prairie with mixedgrass, short-stature vegetation, and prairie dog colonies

Climate Change Vulnerability Index: Not vulnerable, presumed stable

Threats Habitat fragmentation and conversion; management that maintains higher vegetation structure; prairie dog control

Research/Inventory Identify habitat requirements; continue surveys to assess distribution and abundance; evaluate use of agricultural fields

Landscapes Kimball Grasslands, Oglala Grasslands, Panhandle Prairies

According to the last review in 2003, the state Heritage status rank for MCLO is S3, U.S. national status is N4B, N4N and global conservation rank is G4 (NatureServe 2009). The global trend for the population of MCLO is highly variable or unknown (RMBO 2005). But, a drastically reduced breeding range has been reported (Bent 1968, Krause 1968) with less abundance (With 2010). The species is listed on the Partners in Flight (PIF) Watch List. Twelve percent of the world breeding population of MCLO uses Bird Conservation Region (BCR) 18 – Shortgrass Prairie (RMBO 2005) which spans the panhandle of Nebraska. In BCR 18, MCLO exhibits slight to moderate decline of both breeding and non-breeding conditions (RMBO 2005). The portion of MCLO’s distribution within Nebraska is limited. The Nebraska Natural Legacy Science Team set a goal of maintaining seven populations in the state (Schneider et al. 2011), assuming there is little movement between populations and fates of populations are not correlated. Moderate viability (40% chance of survival) of each population gives >99% probability of at least one population surviving 100 years (Morris et al. 1999). The lifespan of individual MCLO is unknown.