South Dakota
Birds and Birding
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Horned Lark

Eremophila alpestris

Length: 7.5 inches Wingspan: 13 inches Seasonality: All Seasons
ID Keys: Black chest and cheek, white or yellow face, plain brown body with white underparts

Horned Lark - Eremophila alpestrisA hardy, all-season bird of open areas. Horned Larks are pretty common most of the year in much of South Dakota, but they're often quite hard to observe closely.  Most of the year, they often go unnoticed.  However, they're much more observable with a fresh snow on the ground, as they often congregate in numbers along gravel roadsides, along with Lapland Longspurs and Snow Buntings.  The "horns" of the Horned Lark are in fact quite small, black tufts of feathers that can only be seen at very close range.

Habitat: Found in a wide variety of settings.  Prefers open ground with little or no tall vegetation, such as barren or plowed fields, large grass lawns, and beaches. 

Diet: Mostly seeds and waste grain in the winter.  Insects are also eaten in great quantity during the summer.

Behavior: Gregarious, usually found in flocks except during the nesting season.  Forages by walking or running on the ground in search of insects and seeds.

Nesting: April through June

Breeding Map: Breeding bird survey map

Song: Horned Lark Song

Migration: Found throughout much of North America, most U.S. populations are permanent residents.  Those in the northern part of Canada do move southward for the winter.

Similar Species: American Pipit

Conservation Status: Widespread and common.  Horned Larks have adapted well to a human presence, and will utilize farmland or other heavily disturbed lands.

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Horned Lark

2) Cornell University's "All About Birds - Horned Lark"

3) Horned Lark

Photo Information: January 21st, 2009 - Minnehaha County, South Dakota - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Horned Lark photos.


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Horned Lark - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Common permanent resident throughout the state.