From the Missouri Conservationist Magazine
March 2021 Issue

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Horned Lark
Jim Rathert

Wild Guide

Horned Lark | Eremophila alpestris

Status

Common

Size

7 ¼ inches

Distribution

Statewide, uncommon in the Ozarks

The horned lark’s black forehead and eyebrow line extend into short “horns” on the bird’s crown, contributing to its moniker. They can be found in large open areas with extensive bare ground. Horned larks are especially common in plowed agricultural regions, nesting early before vegetation has grown tall. Their camouflaged upperparts make them inconspicuous, but they often occur in flocks, and their movement against the ground, and their distinctively marked faces and “horns,” can help you see them. They also sing and call from the ground, which can help pinpoint them. Their song, a soft twittering and tinkling sound, usually delivered in flight, is a lisping tsee or tzee-te-te.

Did You Know?

True members of the lark family are numerous throughout Africa, Europe, and Asia. Early American settlers, confronted with new species, often gave good-singing birds names such as “meadowlark,” which is actually in the blackbird family.

Foods

The horned lark’s diet includes both seeds and insects. Seeds are picked from the ground or low plants. During nesting season, growing young need additional protein, so insects are eaten more frequently. Grasshoppers, beetles, sowbugs, and caterpillars are among the prey..

Life Cycle

One of Missouri’s earliest nesting birds, nesting can begin in February. Nests are on bare ground or in short grass, on golf courses, airports, or open agricultural fields. The young often fledge before spring plowing. Courtship songs and displays begin in January and February.

Ecosystem Connections

Like other ground nesters, horned larks lose many young to predators, such as raccoons, skunks, and weasels. Females avoid drawing attention to the nest. If a predator does draw near, they perform a distraction display similar to the “broken-wing act” of killdeer, also ground nesters.

Discover more nature at mdc.mo.gov/field-guide

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Blue Ash

The Mighty Ones II

A second celebration of Missouri’s champion trees.

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Learning to Fish

Missouri is a great place to fish if you know where to start.

Wild Edibles

Wild Edibles

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This Issue's Staff:

Magazine Manager - Stephanie Thurber

Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld

Associate Editor - Larry Archer

Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek

Art Director - Cliff White

Designer - Shawn Carey
Designer - Marci Porter

Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner

Circulation - Laura Scheuler