Horned Lark

Eremophila alpestris
Horned Lark specimens on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

A striking bird somewhat larger than a sparrow (7-8 inches), the Horned Lark is most easily identified by its black face patches and breast stripe, yellow throat and forehead, and black “horn-shaped” feather tufts on its head. Other field marks include a brown body, pale breast, and black underside to the tail. Male and female Horned Larks are similar to one another in all seasons, although females have slightly duller plumage. The Horned Lark inhabits a large portion of Eurasia (where it is known as the Shore Lark) and North America. In the New World, the Horned Lark breeds from Alaska and arctic Canada south to central Mexico, although this species is conspicuously absent from interior portions of Canada, the Pacific Northwest, and some coastal areas of the eastern United States. During winter, Horned Larks withdraw from northern portions of their breeding range, wintering further south in Canada and the U.S. An isolated population exists in the Andes Mountains of Columbia. In the Old World, this species breeds in northern Scandinavia and Russia as well as at higher elevations in Central Europe and West and Central Asia. Northern populations migrate south to mid-latitudes in Eurasia, whereas southern populations are non-migratory. An isolated population exists in Morocco. Horned Larks breed in open, sparsely vegetated habitats, including agricultural fields, prairie, grassland, desert, and tundra. Similar habitats are occupied on migration and in winter. This species primarily eats seeds, but may eat insects when they are available, particularly in the warmer months and during migration. Due to this species’ preference for open habitat, Horned Larks may be most easily seen foraging for food on bare or sparsely-vegetated ground. During the winter, this species may form large flocks that wander widely in search of food. Horned Larks are primarily active during the day.

DC Information

Irregular summer resident, nesting from March to July. Common transient and wintering bird from September through March, Usually seen in agricultural fields and pastures, and on sandy beaches. Sexes are similar.

Specimen Information

This exhibit includes three birds; two are identified here.
The immature male described below is on the left in the exhibit but is not included above.
Date:  2/3/1918
Collected By:  Wm Palmer
Locality:  Rosslyn, Alexandria Co, VA
Sex:  Male, Immature
Catalog ID:  254046
The bird on the right in the image above and in the exhibit is a mature male.
Date:  3/29/1891
Collected By:  John R Massie /R Ridgway
Locality:  Laurel, MD
Sex:  Male
Catalog ID:  177103

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Eremophila alpestris

Sound from xeno-canto. XC16969 Eremophila alpestris (Horned Lark)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC11505 Eremophila alpestris (Horned Lark)