Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Horned Larks

We were on our way to Eau Claire this morning when I first spotted them - a small flock.  They were along the side of the road picking at seeds and grit.  Without binoculars, they could have been any sparrow.

Tom's guess:   just another flock of roadside juncos.

But I wasn't feeling the junco jizz.   So I pulled the Prius to the side of County Road O in Meridean and snapped this photo.  A Horned Lark!

The only larks native to North America, these birds can be found year-round in Wisconsin.

For me, seeing flocks of Horned Larks along roadsides is a confirmation that spring is just around the corner.

According to the Atlas of Breeding Birds of Wisconsin,  Horned Larks begin to migrate north as early as January, often congregating along snow-plowed roadsides.  A common grassland breeding species in Wisconsin, these birds have been known to start their reproductive cycle as early as March.

                                       Horned Lark - Christmas Bird Count - relative abundance map

                                   Horned Lark - Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas

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