People passionate about nature

Horned Lark

Above: Horned Lark by Christian Artuso

How Do I Recognize It?

A bit larger than a sparrow, Horned Larks are mainly brown above with short legs and proportionately short, blackish tails.  Mature males have a bold mask on the face, with a variable amount of yellow on the head and throat, and a black breast band.  If seen up close, you may also see the tufts of feathers (ear coverts) on either side of the head that resemble tiny horns.  Adult females lack the facial mask, and are generally more muted in colour; females also lack “horns”.  Unlike many birds, Horned Larks walk or run instead of hopping. 

Above: Horned Lark by Christian Artuso

Does It Migrate?

Horned Larks that breed in the arctic are highly migratory.  Many larks breeding in southern Canada also head south for the winter.


Where Does It Live?

Horned Larks breed mainly in the pothole region of Manitoba (up to The Pas in the west, to the Whitemouth River in the southeast).  Breeding also occurs in the far north of the province,  as well as in the arctic regions of Canada and Alaska.

Above: Horned Lark by Christian Artuso

Where Can I See It?

These songbrids are often found in mixed flocks with Snow Buntings, Pipits and Longspurs, frequenting open areas such as farm fields and beaches.  Look for them during spring migration (as early as late February) along roadsides in southern Manitoba, mainly west of the Red River and south of the Assiniboine River.


Conservation Status:

Breeding Bird Survey data on Horned Lark indicate that numbers are sharply declining throughout the species' range, with reforestation, development and human encroachment cited as some causes for the declines in northeastern United States.  Reasons for local declines are not fully understood at this time.

Above: Juvenile Horned Lark by Christian Artuso

Did You Know?

A holarctic species, there are over 40 proposed subspecies of Horned Lark worldwide; about half of these are found in North America.

For more information on Horned Lark, see the Manitoba Breeding Bird Atlas page here.