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Fauna Series No. 3







Faunal Position

Life Zones







Fauna of the National Parks — No. 3
Birds and Mammals of Mount McKinley National Park
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Otocoris alpestris arcticola [OBERHOLSER]

GENERAL APPEARANCE.—A ground bird about the size of a sparrow, with distinct black and white marking on the crown, below and in front of the eye, and on the throat. The tail is black, the outer feathers being edged with white. The back of the head is pale pinkish brown, as is also the base of the tail. The hind toe has a long straight claw. Length, 7.8 inches.

IDENTIFICATION.—The slender black hornlike ear tufts, the black crescent on the throat, and this bird's ground-frequenting habits are all good field marks for horned larks. Arcticola is a large, pale, Alpine-Arctic form of the species.

DISTRIBUTION.—It breeds from Alaska and upper Yukon, South on the high mountains through British Columbia to Washington. We found this bird nesting only on the higher and drier ridges in the McKinley region.

HABITS.—On May 27, 1926, the first pair of horned larks was seen on a barren rocky slope at 4,200 feet altitude where the ground was still nearly all covered with snow. On June 16, 1926, at 3,400 feet altitude, on the Savage-Sanctuary divide, five pairs of horned larks were found on a barren, wind-swept gravel ridge. The males were in full song. The birds were evidently nesting. On June 24, 1926, a male horned lark was observed on a barren shale ridge at 4,200 feet near the head of Savage River.

On June 12, 1926, at Ewe Creek, I found a family of spotted young horned larks just out of the nest. They sought to escape capture by crouching motionless on bare gravel ridges covered with mottled black and white Nenana gravel. They would not fly unless almost stepped on.

On June 27, 1926, at the head of Savage River both young pipits and young pallid horned larks, just out of the nest were found. On July 14, 1926, three adults and seven young horned larks were seen well up on Copper Mountain.

In 1932, on June 2, horned larks were found nesting high up on a rocky slope on Mount Margaret. Again birds of this species were observed at Sable Pass on July 18, when six pairs were noted.

Pallid horned larks are regular breeders in the McKinley region. Seemingly, they pay little attention to late spring storms.

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Last Modified: Thurs, Oct 4 2001 10:00:00 pm PDT

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