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Horned Lark

Eremophila alpestris ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: ALAUDIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Look carefully at a bare, brown field, especially in winter, and you may be surprised to see it crawling with little brown shapes. When they turn, you may see a neat yellow face, black mask, and tiny black “horns” waving in the breeze. Horned Larks are widespread songbirds of fields, deserts, and tundra, where they forage for seeds and insects, and sing a high, tinkling song. Though they are still common, they have undergone a sharp decline in the last half-century.

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Songs

Horned Larks sing a delicate, musical song particularly in the early morning as early as an hour and a half before sunrise. It’s a fast, high-pitched sequence of sharp, tinkling notes, often rising in pitch to a quick jumble of concluding notes. Songs are typically a couple of seconds long but may go on for more than a minute. Males usually sing from a post, rock, clod, mound or other perch, but may sing on the wing, from a height of up to about 800 feet in the air.

Calls

The Horned Lark’s typical call, most often heard in fall and winter, is a high, piercing one- or two-note chip.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Find This Bird

Horned Larks are small birds that live in large, empty fields—and they’re roughly the same color and size as a clod of dirt. To find them, look for the barest ground around and scan the ground carefully, watching for movement or for the birds to turn their black-and-yellow faces toward you. Also watch the air above open country for flocks of smaller birds flying in dense aggregations (sometimes numbering well into the hundreds, particularly in winter). From late winter into summer, listen for the high-pitched, thin, tinkling song, often given in flight display over suitable open habitats.

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