Horned lark

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Horned lark
Shore Lark.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Alaudidae
Genus: Eremophila
Species: E. alpestris
Binomial name
Eremophila alpestris
(Linnaeus, 1758)

Otocorys alpestris

The horned lark (Eremophila alpestris), called the shore lark in Europe, is a species of bird in the genus Eremophila. The current genus name is from Ancient Greek eremos, "desert", and phileo, "to love". The specific alpestris is Latin and means "of the high mountains", from Alpes, the Alps.[2]


Unlike most other larks, this is a distinctive-looking species on the ground, mainly brown-grey above and pale below, with a striking black and yellow face pattern. Except for the central feathers, the tail is mostly black, contrasting with the paler body; this contrast is especially noticeable when the bird is in flight. The summer male has black "horns", which give this species its American name. America has a number of races distinguished by the face pattern and back colour of males, especially in summer. The southern European mountain race Eremophila alpestris penicillata is greyer above, and the yellow of the face pattern is replaced with white.

Vocalizations are high-pitched, lisping or tinkling, and weak. The song, given in flight as is common among larks, consists of a few chips followed by a warbling, ascending trill.

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The horned lark breeds across much of North America from the high Arctic south to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, northernmost Europe and Asia and in the mountains of south-east Europe. There is also an isolated population on a plateau in Colombia. It is mainly resident in the south of its range, but northern populations of this passerine bird are migratory, moving further south in winter.

This is a bird of open ground. In Eurasia it breeds above the tree line in mountains and the far north. In most of Europe, it is most often seen on seashore flats in winter, leading to the European name. In the UK it can be found as a winter stopover along the coasts and in eastern England although a mated pair have been recently[when?] spotted in Windmill End nature reserve in the West Midlands. In America, where there are no other larks to compete with, it is also found on farmland, on prairies, in deserts, on golf courses and airports, and the like.



The nest is on the ground, with two to five eggs being laid. Food is seeds supplemented with insects in the breeding season. The nest may be near corn or soybeans for a source of food, and the female chooses the site.

Status and conservation[edit]

In the open areas of western North America, horned larks are among the bird species most often killed by wind turbines.[3] In 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the subspecies streaked horned lark (Eremophila alpestris strigata) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.[4]


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Eremophila alpestris". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Jobling, James A (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. pp. 42, 148. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4. 
  3. ^ Erickson, W.P., G. D. Johnson, D. P. Young, Jr., M. D. Strickland, R.E. Good, M.Bourassa, K. Bay. 2002. Synthesis and Comparison of Baseline Avian and Bat Use, Raptor Nesting and Mortality Information from Proposed and Existing Wind Developments. Technical Report prepared for Bonneville Power Administration, Portland, Oregon. http://www.bpa.gov/Power/pgc/wind/Avian_and_Bat_Study_12-2002.pdf
  4. ^ "Species Fact Sheet: Streaked horned lark". U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2014-08-05. Retrieved 2014-08-19. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]