Lark BuntingCalamospiza melanocorys

adult male, breeding
Greg Lasley/VIREO
adult male, nonbreeding
Rick and Nora Bowers/VIREO
immature male (1st fall), molting
Greg Lasley/VIREO
Lark Bunting
Lark Bunting

Description

6-7 1/2" (15-19 cm). Breeding male black, with large white wing patch. Female, immature, and winter male streaked sandy buff above, white below, with white eye line, faint "mustache" stripe, white wing patch (not always visible), and rounded, white-tipped tail feathers.

Voice

A canary-like song with loud bubbling sequences and trills interspersed with harsher notes. Call is a 2-note whistle.

Listen

flock calls
buzz calls
long song
short songs

Habitat

Dry plains and prairies; open sagebrush.

Range

Breeds on prairies of south-central Canada and central United States. Winters in Southwest and into Mexico.

Discussion

Lark Buntings are usually seen in large flocks feeding along roadsides. On the breeding grounds they are quite gregarious, several pairs crowding into a few acres of suitable habitat. Since there are few elevated song perches in their grassland breeding area, the spectacular black and white male advertises its presence with a conspicuous song flight, in which it rises almost vertically, then drops back to its original perch. Often one can see several singing males in the air at one time, providing watchers an easy way to locate a nesting colony. Like many seed-eating birds, they supplement their summer diet with insects.

Nesting

4 or 5 light blue eggs in a loose grass nest placed in a scrape with rim flush with the ground; often protected by weedy patch.

Similar Species

adult

Painted Redstart

5" (13 cm). Black hood and upperparts accentuated by large white wing patch and outer tail feathers. Bright red breast and white belly. Sexes are alike.

adult

Lark Sparrow

5 1/2-6 1/2" (14-17 cm). Head boldly patterned with black, chestnut, and white; streaked above; white below, with black spot in center of breast; tail black with white edges.

adult, California

Song Sparrow

5-7" (13-18 cm). Heavy brown streaking on white underparts, with prominent central breast spot (sometimes lacking in juveniles).

adult (Ipswich Sparrow)

Savannah Sparrow

4 1/2-6" (11-15 cm). Pale and streaked, yellowish eyebrow and pinkish legs. Tail notched; other grassland sparrows have shorter, more pointed tails.

adult Sooty (Pacific)

Fox Sparrow

6-7 1/2" (15-19 cm). A chubby, large sparrow, either dusky brown, or slate-colored in the West, or rich rufous in the East, often so dark that no back pattern can be discerned.

adult

Vesper Sparrow

5-6 1/2" (13-17 cm). A grayish, streaked sparrow with white outer tail feathers, narrow white eye ring, and a small patch of chestnut on bend of wing.

adult male

Bobolink

6-8" (15-20 cm). Breeding male largely black, with white rump and back, dull yellow nape. Female and winter male rich buff-yellow, streaked on back and crown. Short, finch-like bill.

Vireo

iPad Promo