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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Horned Lark -- Eremophila alpestris


RANGE: Breeds in North America from western and northern Alaska, the Arctic Coast of northern Canada, Prince Patrick, Devon, and Baffin Islands, and northern Labrador south to Mexico, southwestern Louisiana, central Missouri, northern Alabama, and North Carolina. Winters from southern Canada south throughout the breeding range, and locally or irregularly to the Gulf Coast and southern Florida.

STATUS: Locally common.

HABITAT: Inhabits a wide variety of open habitats, from coastal dunes and alpine tundra to prairies and deserts. Prefers areas with a minimum of vegetation, such as natural or planted low-stature grasslands, cultivated and plowed fields, golf courses, airports, and other relatively barren areas. In winter, groups in small-to-enormous flocks on open, barren sites similar to its breeding habitat.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Bare ground for nesting.

NEST: Nests in a depression on the ground, placed so that the upper edge of the nest is level with the ground surface. Often paves the nest with small pebbles along a portion of the rim. Places nest where there is little or no vegetational cover around the nest, or next to a clump of grass or a rock.

FOOD: In summer, feeds primarily on insects; in winter, it consumes seeds of grasses, weeds, and waste grains.

REFERENCES: Beal and McAtee 1912, Beason and Franks 1974, Cottam and Hanson 1938, DeGraff et al. 1980, Johnsgard 1979, Pickwell 1931, Terres 1980, Verbeek 1967.


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