Thursday, August 8, 2013

This week's Crops & Clips : Horned Lark

The Horned Lark is one of the breeding birds that I will miss most since their local habitat was destroyed in our NE Illinois neighborhood. They nested only steps away from our front door, and often posed on top of utility marking stakes. Of the dozens of lark species worldwide, this is the only one that is an established resident of the USA. Skylarks were introduced into British Columbia, Canada, where they successfully reproduced, and they also wander from Asia into Alaska. 

Horned Larks are called Shore Larks in Europe. This one struck an arrogant pose.

Who the Devil are You? 20100316

I would either sit on the front steps or park the car along the curb on one of the streets in the undeveloped grassland, focus my camera on one of the stakes and simply wait for a bird to fly in and perch. Early in the spring, the visitor would commonly be a Horned Lark.

Horned Lark 20110614

Horned Lark 3-20100410

Horned Lark 3-20100316

Horned Lark 20120629

Males hover in courtship flights over the females, often hidden in the grass. They do not receive critical acclaim as songsters, as do the Skylarks, but I loved to hear their high-pitched music in the morning, beginning before sunrise. They also have a distinctive, if subdued flight song. Listen at this link 

Horned Lark hovering 8-20120601

Horned Lark hovering 20120601

The coloration of females is less pronounced, and they lack the characteristic feather head tufts of the males, the hallmark of their species.

Horned Lark female 20110706

The "horns" are not always raised, as is the case in this adult male. This and the amount of yellow on the face, throat and upper chest varies geographically, being generally brighter and more extensive in the northeastern USA than here in the plains of Illinois. Northern birds are larger and darker.

Horned Lark 2-20100410

Their brown backs make them almost invisible in the grasses. Larks may resemble sparrows, but unlike sparrows, all larks walk rather than hop. This male shows almost no yellow color.

Horned Lark 20110522


  1. HI Ken All these shots are fastastic. I have never seen this bird, I had hoped to when i when to Morocco. In the frst shot, faace on, he looks a bit angry, great flight shots and I like the light in the one where the Lark is sitting on the yellow post.

  2. wow! fabulous shots of a very handsome bird!

  3. I have never seen this beautiful bird before Ken, and your photos are incredible! How sad about the development in its nesting area near you. Our area too :(

  4. Wonderful shots...I remember seeing and learning about this bird when we went to a birding event in Burns Oregon years ago. We were there to see the dance of the sage grouse and so the other birds were kind of overshadowed. In any case, I didn't even own a camera at that time, so....

    Probably I've seen this bird since then and didn't recognize it. I will watch now that you have reminded me.

  5. Awesome shots of the Horned Lark, Ken!

  6. They are beautiful. Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  7. It truly os a shame that their breeding spot has been destroyed. Handsome birds!

  8. Fabulous series of this beautiful bird. It's so sad that their habitat was destroyed.

  9. Wow....I've not seen one of these in real time. Hope to someday tho. In the meantime I enjoy your photo captures!!! They almost are reminiscent of a viper. But much cuter!!!

    Thanks for linking up this weekend at the Bird D'Pot!! Have a great week ahead.

  10. What a beautiful bird! You got a lot of very nice shots.


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