The Native Lark of North America

A horned lark.

Courtesy photo


By Sue Hirshman
With Kent Nelson


Water is the
 Substance of life
  --Anonymous—

It makes me sad when I drive pass the Ridgway Reservoir and see all the barren land. I think, where is the water and where and how are the birds adapting? The drought from last year and this year has taken a heavy toll on the birds.
My friend and I got permission to drive out on the reservoir to see what ducks or birds we could find. We both remarked how eerie and strange it felt to know we were witnessing a different phenomenon.
We found a few ducks, gulls, herons, grebes, etc., on a small area of water and a few other species close to the shoreline. As we were leaving the area, we both noted a small group of birds in front of us walking across the small road area.
It was hard to tell at first what they were, as the short vegetation, short grasses, rocks, got in the way of sight. At first, we thought they were meadowlarks, but no, these birds appeared smaller and walking, and would stop and look at us. We saw black around the face and a dark breast band.
At that point we identified them as Horned Larks! We never saw the little black horns that are little tufts of feathers visible at close range.
Even though this species is listed as common and can be found in most of United States, Canada and Alaska, it can be hard to find. Once on a vacation to Alaska our bird guide found one breeding on the Alpine Tundra.
The Horned Larks are small, with length of 7 1/4 inches, about the size of a Mountain Bluebird. Their diet consists of seeds and insects gleaned from low vegetation or the ground.
According to my atlas, this bird can be seen in all suitable habitats at all elevations in Colorado. The greatest concentration occurs below 6,500 feet in desert grasslands of the Grand Valley, Uncompahgre Valley and San Juan Basin, and in open brushlands and grasslands of Moffat County. Their nest can blend so well with the surroundings that they can be perfectly concealed.
This is the first time in Ouray that I have seen the Horned Lark, but I have seen them on the Audubon Christmas Bird Counts for Delta and Montrose counties.
When I lived in Indiana the bird could be found in...

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