Lark Bunting

Calamospiza melanocorys
Range Map

The Lark Bunting makes a dramatic transformation in spring from a drab brown bird to a shocking black bird with white wings. It is the only sparrow that changes so completely between seasons. Our bird will spend summers in the western prairies from northern Texas to southern Canada. Winters find these birds in Mexico and the southern USA east of the Colorado River into Texas.

Like other members of the Sparrow Clan, this bird will consume many insects in the summer, but it eats seeds and other vegetable matter all year. Given that prairies have large expanses of open country, void of high perches, many birds who live here have adopted the practice of ‘singing from on high’. These birds will fly to height and flutter down while singing. Typically, these birds move in tight groups, flying from food source to food source. Our bird usually forages by fast movements in the open areas, avoiding dense cover. On their winter grounds, these birds will flock with other seed eating specialists.

Modern science regards Lark Buntings as monotypic (i.e. no subspecies).

One day, I look forward to meeting these birds on their breeding grounds. All the birds I’ve met so far have been in their winter garb. Once, while driving west of Burns, in central Oregon, I saw black birds with white wing patches flitting from sign posts and fences. I didn’t stop to chase them because the road offered no safe places to pull off. I thought I was seeing the male Lark Bunting, but having reviewed the range maps, I now have my doubts.

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