Horned Lark: Eremophila Alpestris

The migratory horned lark is present in San Bernardino County during certain parts of the year.
Its distinctive appearance includes mainly brown-grey plumage above and pale below, with a striking black and yellow face pattern. The tail of a horned lark is mostly black with the exception of its central feathers. The black tail contrasts with its paler body, a contrast that is noticeable when the bird is in flight.
On close inspection you may see a black bib and cheek patch and a soft yellow throat.
In the summer males sport black “horns”, which give this species its American name.
The two small “horns” that stick up on the top of the head aren’t real horns, but actually two tufts of black feathers on each side of the head. The “horns” on the horned lark are an important characteristic to look for when making an identification.
These birds’ vocalizations are high-pitched, lisping or tinkling, and weak. Their flight songs consist of a few chips followed by a warbling, ascending trill. Flight songs are used to delineate territories and attract mates.
The horned lark breeds across much of North America, commonly in the Alaska and Canada area, but range as far as the high Arctic south to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. They move south in winter.
Horned larks are monogamous and nest on the ground at a spot chosen by the female. The nests normally feature two to five laid eggs. The nests are cup-shaped, frequently surrounded with pebbles.   Female Horned Larks often collect pebbles, clods, corncobs, dung, which is placed  place beside their nests, covering soil excavated from the nest cavity. The “paved” area resembles a sort of walkway. The function of the pavings is not fully understood but they may help prevent collected nesting material from blowing away while the nest is under construction.
Upon being ready to mate, a female horned lark performs a courting display that looks very much as if she is taking a dust bath. In fact, potential mates seem prone to confusion on this score: a male catching a glimpse of a dust-bathing female may attempt to mate with her.
•  The longest-lived Horned Lark on record in North America was at least 7 years, 11 months old when it was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations.
Horned Larks at higher latitudes usually have only one brood per season, although most others have 2 or more.
The diet of horned larks consists mainly of  seeds supplemented with insects in the breeding season. They feed their nestlings mostly insects, which provide the protein the young birds need to grow. Insect prey are mainly grasshoppers, beetles, and caterpillars. Chicks may also be fed invertebrates such as sowbugs and earthworms. Horned Larks collect most of their food from the ground, but they sometimes perch on plants to harvest seeds from seed heads. In agricultural fields they may pluck and eat sprouting lettuce, wheat, and other crop seedlings.
In the open areas of western North America, horned larks are among the bird species most often killed by wind turbines. In 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the subspecies streaked horned lark (Eremophila alpestris strigata) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
These birds are seven to eight inches long at maturity and walk or run rather than hop. They move in an erratic pattern while feeding. If disturbed, the flock circles in swift, twisting flight, making soft lisping call notes.
Horned larks are philopatric, or faithful to their birthplace, where they returns after every migration. Consequently, each local population adapts to the color of its habitat such that 15 distinct subspecies have been described in the West. The Horned Lark starts returning to its breeding grounds in early March

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