Bird Species Feature: Horned Lark

By dcronenwett May 13, 2019
Horned Lark, Bob Martinka photo

From Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ WILD Center

Species Spotlight: Horned Lark

by Carolyn Underwood


Horned larks are small songbirds usually seen on the ground. A black face patch, pale-yellow throat, and black, crescent-shaped mark on the breast help identify them. Also watch for a tuft of short feathers that sticks up on the head like horns, giving these birds their name. Their favorite foods are insects and seeds. When foraging, they walk or run rather than hop. Females lay two to five grayish-green, brown-dotted eggs on the ground. The nest, located in a shallow depression, is made of grass lined with feathers; the depression may be a natural dip in the ground, or the female may dig it herself. Although we tend to think of horned larks as birds of the short-grass prairie, they can live in many different types of habitat, from northern tundra and mountain meadow to prairie and farmland. They may even live on neatly mowed golf courses and airfields. In the winter, these birds may gather in large flocks with other ground living birds. When snow is on the ground horned larks will often seek plowed roads to rest and roost on to avoid the snow. So, especially on snow covered roads, watch carefully when driving to avoid hitting these small avian creatures of the prairie.

To learn more about this bird species in Montana, visit the Montana Field Guide here.