Horned Lark (23)
By Lee Sollenberger
The Horned Lark is widely distributed on a global scale. In the Americas it occurs from the high Arctic islands to southern Mexico and in the eastern Andes of Colombia. In Eurasia, where it is known as the Shore Lark, it is found from the Arctic coast south to extreme northern Africa, Asia Minor, the Himalayas and Japan. In Alberta, it can be found transiting the whole province, but avoids forested areas, breeding only in open landscape, primarily in the agricultural areas, in the Rocky Mountains above treeline and in the northeastern corner on the Canadian Shield region. Its numbers have drastically declined in recent decades.
This is Alberta's earliest spring migrant, arriving in February, finding food on wind-swept bare ground. If heavy snows fall after their arrival, they gather on the bare plowed edge of roadways, often in the hundreds. Most early arrivals likely move on to breed in the tundra region. Local summer residents may arrive later. Horned Larks avoid the big cities, but some may be found on large, open, bare expanses such as on agricultural fairgrounds in smaller urban communities. In the Calgary area, they are most readily found on grazed pastures or cultivated fields east of the city. When fields are bare, a few birds can usually be found during the winter months in the southern part of the province.
Weed seeds make up a large percentage of this bird's annual diet. It also eats many insects during the summer months.
The nest is always on the ground, usually tucked into a sheltered hollow. It is constructed of dry grass and plants stem with a finer inner lining of plant down, fur and/or feathers. Usually four greenish gray eggs are laid, incubated by the female for 10 to 14 days, depending upon the latitude. Both adults feed. The young open their eyes at three to four days, leaving the nest when nine to twelve days old. They are fully able to fly four days later. This species may rear more than one brood annually.