Horned Lark

Brown bird in grass.

Scientific Name
Eremophila alpestris insularis

The horned lark, Eremophila alpestris, is the only member of the lark family (Alaudidae) native to the new world.The form found on the Channel Islands is a subspecies (E. a. insularis) endemic to the islands, where it breeds on all except Anacapa. Horned larks favor short grasses and bare ground habitat.

Quick and Cool Facts

  • Larks return to their birthplace after every migration (a characteristic known as philopatry).

  • Because of their philopatric behavior, local populations have adapted to the color of their habitat, resulting in 15 distinct subspecies in the West.

  • The use of mowed areas around airstrips has allowed the horned lark to colonize regions where no other suitable habitat may exist nearby, such as heavily forested areas.

  • Adult horned larks eat primarily weed and grass seeds, but they feed insects to their young.

  • Many collective nouns have been used to describe a group of larks, including an "ascension", "chattering", "exaltation", "happiness", and "springul" of larks.
Unlike most other larks, this is a distinctive-looking species on the ground, mainly brown-grey above and pale below, with a striking black and yellow face pattern.The summer male has black "horns", which give this species its common name.Vocalizations are high-pitched, lisping or tinking, and weak.The song, given in flight as is common among larks, consists of a few chips followed by a warbling, ascending trill.

The island subspecies, insularis, shows all of the characteristics typical of change in the island birds including darker color, a longer broader bill, longer tarsi, and longer toes. They also have shorter wings and tail. This subspecies has some streaking below.

Besides breeding the Channel Islands, the horned lark breeds in Alaska and Canadian Arctic, coastal Canada, and south throughout all of the U.S. except in the Southeast. Horned larks winter from southern Canada southward;also found in Eurasia.

Larks are common to abundant residents in a variety of open habitats, usually where trees and large shrubs are absent. It is found from grasslands along the coast and deserts near sea level to alpine dwarf-shrub habitat above tree line In winter, flocks in desert lowlands and other areas augmented by winter visitants, many migrating from outside the state.

Adult horned larks eat primarily weed and grass seeds, but they feed insects to their young.1 The horned lark searches for food by walking along the ground.

The horned lark breeds from March through July, with peak activity in May. The lark pair nests solitarily;with two to five gray or green eggs spotted brown, which are laid in a nest made of grass lined with feathers and soft materials and built in a shallow depression, natural or dug by the female. Incubation ranges from 11 to 12 days and is carried out mostly by the female. A pair frequently raises 2 broods in a season. Incubation is 10-14 days;altricial young tended by both parents. Young leave nest at 9-12 days, and can fly 3-5 days later.

Conservation Status
The global population of this bird does not show signs of decline that would necessitate inclusion on the IUCN Red List. For this reason, the current evaluation status of the Horned Lark is Least Concern.

Additional Information

Last updated: June 28, 2016

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

1901 Spinnaker Drive
Ventura, CA 93001


805 658-5730

Contact Us