New World Sparrows(Order: Passeriformes, Family:Passerellidae). North America is home to many handsome sparrows, but Lark Buntings are among the most striking: breeding males are velvety black with snow-white wing coverts and fine white edges to the innermost flight feathers (the tertials). Pairs often nest close to one another in a loose “colony,” much as Dickcissels do. Their courtship is also unusual, involving a hopping and crouching display unlike other sparrows. In migration and winter, similar habitats are home to roving flocks. These birds may be able to survive periods of drought without drinking water, taking moisture from grasshoppers and other insects, their chief food during summer. Lark Buntings have interesting domestic arrangements. Lark Buntings breed in beautiful, windswept habitats such as the grasslands and shrubsteppe of the Great Plains, where they are most numerous in large expanses of native grasslands with sagebrush. Most are monogamous, but some males breed with multiple partners (a mating system known as polygyny). North America is home to many handsome sparrows, but Lark Buntings are among the most striking: breeding males are velvety black with snow-white wing coverts and fine white edges to the innermost flight feathers (the tertials). Lark Sparrows favor areas with bare open ground and scattered bushes, habitats that are more common in the West and Midwest than in the East; they often forage conspicuously out in the open. Get Instant ID help for 650+ North American birds. In their preferred grassland habitats, they feed among other sparrows or with quail, often near road edges and often in flocks. The populations in Mexico and adjacent states of the United States are resident, but other birds are migratory, wintering in the southern United States, Mexico and south to Guatemala. In other areas, when males outnumber females, unmated males seem to serve as “nest helpers,” bringing food to young at the nest. An observer in Kansas during the Dust Bowl year of 1937 noted that while other wildlife all but vanished, Lark Buntings actually increased and nested successfully. Watch and listen for breeding males as they deliver their flight song, rising up and then gliding down to earth as they sing. Lark Sparrows occur in the West and the Great Plains in prairies, grasslands, and … When going from place to place, they tend to fly higher than most sparrows, giving a sharp callnote as they pass overhead. Males sing a melodious jumble of churrs, buzzes, and trills reminiscent of an Old World lark. Breeding males have an impressive song flight: they ascend rapidly, then glide earthward, with most of the song given as they slowly descend. The oldest recorded Lark Bunting was a male, and was at least 4 years, 10 months old when he was found in Arizona, the same state where he had been banded. The other flight song is heard mostly from rival males; it contains harsh, low notes, pauses, and sharp whistles. The Cornell Lab will send you updates about birds, birding, and opportunities to help bird conservation. The main song, sometimes given in flight, is a series of notes, delivered in distinct phrases, that differ in both pitch and speed. It is much less common in the east, where its range is contracting. This is similar to the displays of some Eurasian lark species (especially the Eurasian Skylark), and is the reason the buntings have "lark" in their common name, despite being unrelated taxonomically. Within the species’ range, a water feature, a brush pile, an open sandy area with some native grasses, and offerings of various seeds on the ground might attract a Lark Bunting during migration. Females, immatures, and nonbreeding males are sandy brown but also have white in the wing, most apparent when the birds are flying. This passerine bird breeds in southern Canada, much of the United States, and northern Mexico. Slowly driving through appropriate habitat, watching and listening, is a good way to find this species. Lark Buntings sing from a perch or in a flight display, and they appear to be unique among birds in having two different flight-song types. Females, immatures, and nonbreeding males are sandy brown but also have white in the wing, most apparent when the birds are flying. Few backyards have enough open area to attract Lark Buntings regularly, but migrants do occasionally appear in backyards along with other sparrows.
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