Horned Lark      Eremophila alpestris


  • Eremophila : Greek word  eremos- desert; phileo- to love  { Desert Loving}
  • Alpestris : Latin Word for high mountains

Distribution in India: Resident of Upper Himalayas in India

Description: Size of 15-18 cm. It is a medium-sized lark with short bill, fairly long tail, and striking head pattern with elongated lateral crown feathers that look like “horns”. The male nominate race has yellow forehead and supercilium, yellow from chin and throat extending across lower neck side to meet yellowish ear-coverts all contrasting with blackish central crown with elongated lateral feathers. It has blackish lores and broad band from eye down to cheek, and black chest band. It has a black central crown to upper mantle, also rump and uppertail-coverts, warm ­rufous-brown with pinkish tinge, rest of upper­parts greyer and dark-streaked. The wings are darker with pale edgings; tail blackish, central feathers paler and greyish, outer feathers edged white. The underparts below chest band are whitish, breast side to rear flank washed pinkish-rufous, breast is streaked; bill is dark grey to black; legs are black. Non-breeding male has head pattern partly obscured, “horns” often shorter. The female resembles male but smaller, slightly duller, with black bands on head and chest a little narrower. The juvenile has head and upperparts heavily mottled blackish and white, throat and lower neck side are creamy whitish, chest band is mottled; after autumn moult resembles adult. The race longirostris found in India is slightly darker than previous, with black of cheek band and chest separated by white lower neck side.

Habitat: It is the only lark to have successfully colonized tundra and alpine habitats; throughout range prefers mainly barren terrain with very short vegetation.

Food habits : It eats invertebrates in summer and plant material in winter. Main invertebrate prey items are grasshoppers, beetles, flies and lepidopterans larvae. The nestlings are fed almost entirely with these invertebrates, and earthworms. The seeds, especially small grass seeds, are important in winter. It forages on ground, singly or in small to large, tightly knit flocks; walks and runs. It obtains most food items directly from soil surface; occasionally digs, pursues flushed prey by running, and takes seeds directly from plants. It occasionally drinks water around dawn.

Breeding habits : They breed in Feb in America, in May in Canada & Eurasia, in May-Jul in Scandinavia .They are monogamous and territorial. The mating display by male is a Song flight. The male ascends to great height, hovers while singing, and drops vertically back to earth; generally less aerial than many other larks. The nest is built by female alone. The nest is an excavated cavity or natural depression on ground, filled with woven plant material, lined with feathers or other fine material, with stones, bark, clods of earth, animal dung and other material placed around it. The nest usually positioned in such a way as to reduce wind flow across it to as little as a tenth of ambient wind speed and to maximize shade. They lay a clutch of 1–8 eggs . The incubation is done by female alone. The incubation period is 11–12 days. The chicks are fed by both parents. The chicks leave nest after 9–12 days, fly at 16–18 days, reach full adult size by 30 days.