Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Status: Regular migrant and nesting species, casual winter resident.
Migration: Common to abundant migrant throughout the Valley. The largest numbers occur in open agricultural regions of the Western Upland and Central Plain. Spring migration begins during late January in the south and the first migrants reach Burnett and Pine counties by 15 February. Peak spring migration occurs between 25 February and 25 March. Peak fall migration occurs between 15 October and 10 November and most have departed by 15 December.
Nesting Season Distribution: Horned larks are common nesting birds in the Western Upland and Central Plain, rare and local in the Northern Highland.
Winter: During the winter, horned larks present a perplexing problem in determining whether individuals are early or late migrants or actual winter residents. North of St. Croix Falls, this species is generally absent from mid-December to late January. South of St. Croix Falls, occasional small flocks of 5 to 20 individuals can be found in open areas during this period. I usually consider displaying individuals to be returning summer residents and consider migration to be commencing with the observation of the first large flocks.
Habitat: Horned larks are characteristic of agricultural areas. Breeding densities appear largest in short vegetation associated with domestic hayfields and oat stubble. This species has adapted well to man's increased agricultural production and breeding pairs regularly use bare cultivated fields and various row-crop fields.