Lark bunting

Calamospiza melanocorys

TAXONOMY

Fringilla bicolor J. K. Townsend, 1837, Nebraska. Calamospiza melanocorys, Stejneger, 1885; Fringilla bicolor preoccupied.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: White-winged blackbird, prairie bobolink; French: Bruant noir et blanc; German: Prärieammer; Spanish: Gorrión Alipálido.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

5.5-7 in (14-18 cm); 1.4 oz (40 g). A large, chunky sparrow with a large bill. Sexes differ in color. Males in breeding plumage are black with conspicuous white patches in the wing and white corners to the tail. Females are heavily streaked with chocolate-brown, with whitish buff in the wings and white or light buff corners to the tail. Juveniles are similar in color to females but with a yellowish cast to their plumage. Males in winter resemble females but usually have some black feathers.

DISTRIBUTION

Breed from the southern Canadian prairies south to eastern New Mexico and northwest Texas. Winters from southern Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and central Texas south through Baja California and northern Mexico.

HABITAT

Breed in shortgrass prairie interspersed with sage or other shrubs. In winter then are found in weedy, dry grasslands or open farmland.

BEHAVIOR

On the breeding ground, they are conspicuous birds, with males frequently giving an elaborate stiff-winged flight display. They run or hop on the ground. In winter they are found in flocks.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Forage on the ground, eating mostly insects in the summer and seeds in the winter.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Usually monogamous, although some males, especially where density is high, have two or more mates. The cup-shaped nest is placed on the ground, under a bush or in taller vegetation where it is protected from the sun. Three to seven (usually four to five) eggs are laid from mid-May through mid-July. Incubation lasts 12 days, and the young leave the nest after 8-9 days.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

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