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Horned Lark - the famous feathered singer

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Latin name:Eremophila alpestris
Squad:Passerines
Family:Larks

Appearance and behavior. A little larger than a sparrow, approximately from a field lark or larger (Caucasian subspecies). In general, a slender lark with a relatively long tail and fairly short legs. The males are characterized by clearly visible elongated black feathers on the sides of the crown - “horns”. Often keeps on the ground, with anxiety does not take off immediately, likes to hide. Wavy flight. Body length 14–20 cm, wingspan 31–37 cm, weight 27–48 g.

Description. The color of the top, with the exception of the front of the head, is protective in all subspecies - grayish-wine or grayish-brown. In males, the nape, neck and nape of the same color are mated. On the back and shoulder parts, blurry darkish streaks are noticeable. The bottom is whitish with a few blurry mottles on our sides of the abdomen. Feather feathers are dark brown, with a light border on the outer webs. The central pair of tail feathers is of the same shade as the color of the back, the other tail feathers are black, the extreme pair with white borders on the outer wearer. The forehead, throat, eyebrows, the back of the cheeks and coverts of the ear are light - lemon yellow or white. The front part and sides of the crown of the head, horns, frenum, cheeks, collar in the area of ​​the goiter and upper chest are shiny black.

Adult females in our subspecies are not colored as contrasted as males. A solid black spot on their forehead is either absent or expressed as a dark cluster of mottles. Elongated feathers in the form of horns usually do not happen. The black color of the frenum, cheeks, and collar takes up less space than males, and does not happen brilliantly black. On the crown of the head, back of the head, back (sometimes also in the neck area and on the nape of the tail), dark speckles are pronounced, which stand out sharply in birds in the fledged summer plumage. On the sides of the abdomen, streaks are also more numerous than in males.

The legs of adult birds are black, the beak is short, black-horned, with a yellow base of the mandible. In fresh feathers, on the black plumage parties, light borders are noticeable, and a brown or grayish coating develops on the lower part of the chest. The color of the beak in autumn and winter is much lighter. Young people in juvenile attire have a brownish-black overall color with a light speck of yellow, whitish or light ocher hue formed by light spots on the tops of feathers. Blurry roundish dark spots are expressed on the chest and sides of the lower side of the body. In general, the nesting outfit looks very colorful. In the autumn outfit, the first-year-olds are similar to adult females in a fresh feather. It differs from all similar species in the presence of a black mask on the head and a black spot on the chest, and the males also in the presence of two black feather “horns” on the head, which is why the species got its Russian name. In flight, a black collar on the chest and black tail feathers, sharply contrasting with the light abdomen and underwrap, are clearly visible.

Vote. The song is short, quiet and monotonous, usually repeating the same phrase, consisting of clean and iridescent whistles with a rise at the end after a long fall. In flight, he sings faster and more closely. The song is not like songs of other species of larks, trills characteristic of other larks are absent in it. A bit like a Lapland plantain song. He sings mainly on the ground or in low squads, occasionally low in the air. Call - monosyllabic or two-syllable high whistle "these" or "si li", In flight and in flocks often uses a three- or four-syllable urge"siii ssi ssi si". Sometimes uses a tougher urge "prsh" or "tsrr».

Distribution, status. Distributed in the northern regions of North America and Eurasia, inhabits the tundra zone, mountain ranges and desert-steppe regions, in Eurasia the south reaches the Himalayas, in North America - to Texas and Southern Mexico. It lives in the mountains of the High Atlas in northern Africa. The species is divided into 40 subspecies, of which three are found in European Russia.

Representatives of the subspecies E. a. flava distributed throughout the tundra zone from western to eastern borders, and during migration and wintering are found in most regions of European Russia. About the size of a field lark. The forehead, throat, eyebrows and back of the cheeks of birds of this race are usually yellow (rarely lemon-whitish), the black facial mask does not merge with the black collar on the chest, and the color of the top is the darkest.

In the Caucasus subspecies lives E. a. penicillatasignificantly larger than other subspecies. The black coloration on the sides of the head in birds of this race is much wider and is connected on the sides of the neck with a black collar on the chest. The horns of males are very long. Eyebrows and a bright spot on the throat of birds in fresh feathers are yellowish-white and almost pure white in the nesting period.

In the region of the salt lakes of Elton and Baskunchak, a subspecies inhabits the steppes Volga region E. a. brandti, whose representatives are on average smaller and very light. The black color of the cheeks does not connect with the black collar on the chest. The throat, sides of the neck, front of the forehead and eyebrows are always white. The streaks on the upper side of the body are brownish, very light, and practically invisible in the field. During seasonal wanderings can occur throughout the Pre-Caucasus.

Lifestyle. Due to significant differences in the way of life between subspecies, the biology features described here without special mention belong to the tundra subspecies. On the territory of Russia, all forms — tundra, steppe, and mountain — adhere to dry, stony habitats with low grassy vegetation. Breeds in separate pairs. The nest is an open bowl in a pit on the ground, the tray is made of grass blades, lined with plant or animal down, along the edges of the nest of the bird they build sills from pieces of land, lichens or manure. In clutch there are 2–5 ocher-gray eggs with copious dark gray or brown specks. Chick with whitish-buffy down, orange-yellow mouth, with three black spots on the tongue. Both parents feed the chicks.

Nutrition mixed with the predominance of plant feed. Chicks are fed mainly by invertebrate animals. Adult birds, in addition to invertebrates, eat seeds. In winter, mainly seed-eating. They hibernate widely in European Russia, while the tundra subspecies migrates south to the steppe zone, the steppe subspecies in winter is found only in the southern Volga region. Birds of the Caucasian subspecies migrate to the foothill plain or make vertical migrations along the southern slopes of the mountains.

Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris)

External signs of a horned lark

The body size of a horned lark is slightly smaller than that of a field lark. The length of the body is 14-20 cm, the wingspan reaches 31-37 cm, and the weight is 27-48 g.

The legs are short, the tail is slightly notched, the feathers of the suprahangway are very long. The color of the plumage varies depending on the geographical area. The upper side of the body is painted in sand color, sometimes gray-brown with clear mottled spots. Feathers on the neck and front of the back have a noticeable wine-purple hue. The bottom of the body is light, tail feathers are black with a narrow white stripe along the extreme pair.

The sides of the head in some subspecies are white, in others lemon yellow, a black “mask” is noticeable. The forehead is light, a wide black stripe separates it from the crown. She goes into thin sharp feather "horns" on the sides of the head. From here came the species name - the horned lark. In females, the "horns" are small, the color of the plumage is pale. Adult birds have a short brownish beak with nostrils covered with feathers. The legs are black.

Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris).

Horn Lark Spread

The habitat of the horned lark is quite extensive. It covers Asia, Europe, Central and North America, North-West Africa. It is found in America from the tundra to Mexico, isolated in Colombia. Bird flies to southern Spain are known.

In Russia, this species of larks inhabits the northern tundra regions along almost their entire length, Altai, the Caucasus, and Eastern Siberia. In the northern areas of the range, horned larks are migratory birds, and in the southern regions they lead a settled lifestyle.

On the face of the lark there is a characteristic mask, and on the back of the head there are elongated black feathers that look like horns.

Horned Lark Habitats

In the mountains, horned larks inhabit the subalpine and alpine zones, choosing sparse sections of meadows with gravelly soil and low grass. In the north, birds prefer to settle on sandy spaces on the seashore among the high dry tundra. In winter, birds descend into the valleys, roaming along the steppes, fields, roads, in places where there is no snow.

On migration and on winter migrations, horned larks are kept on solonetzes, found on pebbles in Western Siberia and Altai along river banks and on open rocky slopes with sparse vegetation. In winter, in a snowstorm, these birds carry bad weather on the streets of cities and towns.

In Ukraine, horned larks feed on currents, melons, abandoned fields, in places where dry grass hides under a thin layer of snow. In the thaw, horned larks gather on the virgin lands, in bad weather - where above the weeds, not covered by snow. In the Kazakh Highlands, horned larks appear on the slopes of hills with placers of stones and gravel covered with sparse vegetation.

Crested Larks are regular winter guests on the coast of Central Europe.

In Altai, birds adhere to a dry, rocky, or gravelly steppe with sparse grass; sometimes they live even on pastures knocked out to the ground. In the Tien Shan, he chooses meadow and steppe spaces with rocky soil and rare alpine vegetation.

In Altai, horned larks nest without adhering to a certain height, but in the Tien Shan, birds build nests only at high altitudes, mainly from 3000 m and higher, although they sometimes settle at an altitude of 1800-2000 meters.

Lark behavior features

In the natural habitat, horned larks are kept in pairs; they form flocks outside the nesting period, sometimes quite numerous. Birds run fast on the ground and stand low compared to other species of larks. They fly reluctantly, but the flight in birds is strong.

Forest crested larks prefer treeless landscapes in the southern regions above the forest border and in the northern lichen tundra.

The voice - a lingering, high metal, like "di-di-di-i", "hidi-i-i", sounds in high key. Larks are most often sung while sitting on the ground, sometimes while running or in flight. The song in birds sounds jerky, but loudly. Horned larks like to take dust baths.

Nesting Horned Larks

Horned larks announce their arrival with a spring song. Then they are located in nesting sites. During the courtship of the female, males alternate singing with take-offs. The nest of a horned lark is rather neat and is twisted from thin stems. The tray is lined with soft vegetable fluff or animal hair. Leaving the masonry, the birds cover the eggs with a bunch of grass. Horned larks carefully hide the nest under a bush, sometimes under a hummock or have it completely open.

Lark of a horned lark.

There are usually 4 eggs in a clutch, less often five. The eggshell is pale greenish or brownish-white, covered with brown streaks on the surface and pale grayish in depth. At the dull end of the egg is a corolla from a cluster of spots or rare spots and dots. The size of the eggs is 2.1-2.5 × 1.6-1.7 cm.

The male helps the female incubate eggs. Chicks appear on days 9-11, they leave the nest at the age of 9-10 days, but can fly away at a weekly age. Birds can have 2 broods per year. In case of destruction of the nest, repeated masonry is possible.

Horn Lark

Horned larks feed mainly on insects: flies, mosquitoes, bugs, but crustaceans, small mollusks are also present in the diet. With the onset of autumn, insects disappear, so the birds switch to plant food. About 90% are seeds of cereals and other plants. Wintering horned larks eat seeds of knotweed, quinoa, sedge, wheat and millet in the fields.

Horned larks feed, like many birds, on insects and seeds.

Horn Lark Status

The horned lark belongs to the 2 category of rarity: “vulnerable species”. The IUCN Red List threat category for global extinction is “Least Concern”.

In winter, horned larks eat knotweed, sedge, wheat, and millet left in the fields.

Horn Lark Guard

The horned lark is protected in several nature reserves of the Russian Federation together with other species. In bird habitats, it is necessary to limit the number of grazed domestic animals. In addition, we need explanatory work among the population about the inadmissibility of catching horned larks.

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