For the Birds: Pausing for horned larks

Photo by Chris Bosak A horned lark looks for food in New England, February 2021.

The crossbills were going to have to wait. I wasn’t about to just walk past a field full of horned larks.

Last week, I wrote about my trip to see red crossbills. The target birds were clearly being seen close by as a crush of photographers and birdwatchers were standing on a boardwalk huddled together as much as possible in these days of socially distancing ourselves. I knew the crossbills were there, but to get there I had to walk along the edge of a field where about a dozen horned larks were hopping about looking for food.

One of the larks made the temptation even greater as it flew in closer to the edge of the field where I walked. It proved to be too much as I stopped my progress toward the crossbills and kneeled down to get a better angle of the lark that was now well within photographic range. The lark looked for food and in doing so, kept inching toward me. I held my ground and put the crossbills on hold.

Eventually, the larks flew off as one to the far end of the field. OK, crossbill time, I thought — just as the crossbills flew away from their convenient spot next to the boardwalk. As I wrote last week, the crossbills settled in a tree not far away and offered plenty of quality time to the photographers and birdwatchers, this time including me. Horned larks are named for the horn-like feathers that sometimes stick up from either side of the birds’ heads. The “horns” were not out on the birds I photographed, but the birds still proved to be handsome photographic subjects.

From a distance, horned larks are not much to look at. They are small birds and appear to be rather bland as you see them from across a field. Many people may see them and not give them a second look.

Closer inspection yields a bird that is mostly white underneath and brown above with decorative yellow and black markings on its face, throat and head. Females are similarly patterned but overall more dull in color.

Horned larks are year-round residents in parts of New England, but they are seen most frequently during the winter. They favor open, barren areas so look in low-cut fields and on beaches for the best chance to spot them. Even snow-covered fields are good places to look as larks seek out seeds that still cling to the grasses that poke above the snow or have been blown on the snow’s surface.

Despite favoring open spaces, they can be difficult to spot. In the winter, the grass and weeds are brown, as is the sand, making it a perfect camouflage for the bird. Usually, it’s their movement that betrays them as they are constantly moving around. They typically gather in fairly large flocks as well, making them easier to find.

Winter can sometimes be a difficult season to get through, but larks are one more reason to get out there and make the most of it.

Horned lark: The demise of a morsel

Photo by Chris Bosak A horned lark looks for food in New England, February 2021.

Not sure what this morsel of food is (or was) but the horned lark took care of it in one bite. (OK, so it’s not as exciting as a hawk eating a squirrel or an eagle eating a fish, but it’s still a bird eating Continue reading

More horned lark photos

Photo by Chris Bosak A horned lark looks for food in New England, February 2021.

As promised, here is another post on the horned larks I saw the other day. This post will be more photo-heavy. One quick word on horned larks: They get their name from the horn-like feathers that sometimes stick up from their heads. They aren’t visible on the photos Continue reading

Distracted by horned larks

Photo by Chris Bosak A horned lark looks for food in New England, February 2021.

Horned larks are sparrow-sized birds that live year-round in parts of New England, but are mostly seen in the winter. They prefer open, barren areas, so you’re not likely to see them in the woods. Check open areas with short grass or no grass (a beach for instance) for your best chance at finding them. I found these birds in a snow-covered field at Hamonasset State Park in southern Connecticut last week during my trip to see the crossbills. More horned lark posts coming soon.

Photo by Chris Bosak A horned lark looks for food in New England, February 2021.

The latest For the Birds Column: Counting some lucky larks

Photo by Chris Bosak Peregrine Falcon at Veterans Park in Norwalk, Dec. 2013.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Peregrine Falcon at Veterans Park in Norwalk, Dec. 2013.

Click below to read the latest For the Birds column, which appears every Thursday in The Hour (Norwalk, CT) and Monday in The Keene Sentinel (Keene, NH). I talk about my experiences during the Dec. 15 Christmas Bird Count. Those are some lucky larks!

Click here for story.

Oh, and Merry Christmas, everybody.