Saturday, January 31, 2015

An Uncommon Winter Visitor

horned larks and lapland longspur
Every winter, flocks of horned larks and snow buntings show up on cornfields in our area. Our local Agway feed store always puts seeds out behind the store in Walpole, New Hampshire. This winter at least three lapland longspurs have been associated with the flocks of horned larks.

While not a rare bird in our area, they are uncommon and usually associate in flocks of horned larks. They blend in pretty well, so you need to scan carefully to find the prize!

In summer, the lapland's appearance is quite striking. The breeding male has a black face and chest and rufous colored nape. Unlike most birds with different breeding and non-breeding plumages, longspurs molt only once a year. In the fall, they molt into non-breeding plumage. By spring, the outer tips of the feathers have worn off to reveal the breeding plumage underneath.
Horned larks are pretty distinctive with their yellow faces, black masks and tiny horns. Their repeated song, “tsee-ee”, is weak and high, and is usually delivered in flight. In winter the song becomes a faint tinkling sound.

 You can see the tiny horns on the horned lark on the right in this picture.
 Here's a couple shots showing the dark tail on the horned lark.

 This bird is philopatric, or faithful to its birthplace, where it returns after every migration. Consequently, each local population adapts to the color of its habitat; 15 distinct subspecies have been described in the West.

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