With its black-and-white striped head with chestnut cheek patches, the Lark Sparrow (5 ½-6 ½ inches) bears a greater resemblance to a longspur than to other North American sparrow species. This species can be further distinguished from its relatives and from the longspurs by its cone-shaped bill, dark chest spot, and large, rounded tail. Male and female Lark Sparrows are similar to one another in all seasons. The Lark Sparrow breeds primarily in the western United States east to the Great Plains. Most populations migrate south for the winter, when they may be found in Mexico, locally in the desert southwest, and in small numbers in southern Florida. Lark Sparrows in California and Texas are non-migratory. Formerly, this species bred east to the Atlantic seaboard, but has retracted its range as open land cleared for agriculture in the nineteenth century has become forested again. Lark Sparrows breed in open grassland and agricultural fields. In winter, this specie utilizes similar habitats as in summer. Lark Sparrows eat insects and seeds, with insects playing a larger dietary role in summer and seeds playing more of a role in winter. Due to its preference for open habitat, the Lark Sparrow may be easily seen foraging for insects and seeds on the ground beneath grass and scrub. During the breeding season, it may be possible to see male Lark Sparrows performing a strange mating ritual where they strut on the ground with their wings held low and tail held upright, superficially resembling a turkey. This species is most active during the day.
A rare late-summer and fall migrant, July through October. Found in sandy brushy areas. Sexes are similar.
Collected By: R Ridgway
Locality: Tunnel Hill, Johnson Co, IL
Catalog ID: 188197