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This little bird likes the wide-open spaces

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By Horace Brown

The Horned Lark lives in the open country, never a forest.

As a matter of fact, a clod or stone is favorite perch, and these birds are rarely seen in a shrub or a tree.

This bird may be observed the year around, and it tends to abound in flocks in the winter, again always in open country.

Also drive with caution at night on open country roads whenever snow covers the land, because they will tend to roost at night on the cleared roads.

Just behind this bird’s eyes are small pointed tufts of dark-colored feathers, which often are erected and give origin to the name “Horned Lark.”

Most small birds – this one is 7.25 inches long, with a 12-inch wingspan – hop, whereas this ground-loving bird always walks, and it has an elongated hind claw on each foot.

They also molt only once a year, usually in August, though many other birds molt twice and, a few, three times.

Their food is mostly weed seeds and some insects.

In the mating season, which can be as early as February, they sing while on the wing as they ascend to great heights. The son is neither complex nor loud, but it is wild, joyous and full of the free spirit of the open fields.

They nest in a hollow on the ground, typically next to or partially under a grass tuft. It fits the environment so closely that a search is usually fruitless.

The female leaves the nest while any intruder sis 25 to 100 yards or more away. This is called nest concealment by abandonment.

The only nest that I have ever found was while surveying on the Copper Coin Farm in western Shelby County several years ago.

The nest is a shallow cup of course steps and leaves and lined with fine grasses.

One side of the nest rim is often lined with  a “paving” of small pebbles or clods forming a “patio” or doorstep.

It is built by the female alone for two to four days. Three to give eggs are laid, with incubation by the female only for 11 days. Tow to three broods may be raised.

So get out in the open country, and when searching for the unique Horned Lark, here’s small hint: I see them quiet often on the road leading back to Gallrein Farms in the Great Outdoors!

 

To read more of Horace Brown’s columns on birds, visit www.SentinelNews.com/recreation.