The Lapland Longspur is a circumpolar breeder, chiefly in the Arctic tundra.
In the colder months they may be found in Ontario with flocks of Snow Buntings and Horned Larks along roadsides and in weedy or manured fields.
Some breed along the Hudson Bay vicinity in summer.
Speirs (1973) contrasted the relative abundance of this species on Christmas counts in Ontario, where it is far outnumbered by Snow Buntings, with the condition in the midwestern United States, where it outnumbers the Snow Bunting.
In flocks of Snow Buntings watch for smaller, darker associates, ones that lack the dark outer tail feathers and characteristic markings of Horned Larks.
Lapland Longspurs look more like some of our stripy sparrows, particularly Vesper Sparrows which also have white outer tail feathers, but the Longspurs are more heavily built and tend to hug the ground.
On closer inspection the light brown hind neck and buffy ear patches outlined in black are diagnostic.
In late spring you may come across adults in breeding plumage with chestnut hind neck and black crown, face and “bib” bordered behind the creamy white.
Spring migrants may be heard uttering their delightful tinkling song, but winter birds share many of the Snow Bunting calls, notably a dry, rolling “r-r-r-r” and a descending “teeee-ur”.
Dr. J. Murray Speirs