Horned lark

Eremophila alpestris

TAXONOMY

Alauda alpestris Linnaeus, 1758, North America = coast of North Carolina.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Shore lark; French: Alouette hausse-col; German: Ohrenlerche; Spanish: Alauda Cornuda.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS 5.9-6.7 in (15-17 cm); male 1.1-1.7 oz (30-48 g); female 0.9-1.5 oz (26-42 g). Named after elongated black feathers at sides of crown reminiscent of horns; head and breast contrastingly colored, somewhat brighter in males than in females.

DISTRIBUTION

Holarctic; widespread in North America, northern and southeastern Europe, northern and central Asia. Separated populations in Morocco, Lebanon, northern Israel, and South America (Colombia).

HABITAT

Steppes, semideserts, arctic tundra; prefers open, bare, and stony areas.

BEHAVIOR

Perches on stones, fence posts, or shrubs. Song uttered while perching and during song-flight up to 300 ft (91 m) above ground. Populations of arctic tundra are migratory, hibernate between 55° and 35° N. Present year round in most areas in North America, from southern Canada southward; some may be permanent residents. Migratory in far north, one of the earliest spring migrants. Horned larks breeding in Alaska and Canada winter south as far as the Gulf of Mexico; populations from the tundras of Northern Europe migrate annually to wintering areas around the North Sea.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Feeds mainly on insects during breeding season, but takes more seeds during winter months.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Monogamous. Nest cup-shaped, frequently surrounded with pebbles. Breeds March through July; one to two broods; three to five eggs, incubation takes 13 days; chicks leave nest after eight to 10 days. Both parents care for young.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

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