Lark Sparrow

Chondestes grammacus
Range Map

In summer, Lark Sparrows will range over most of the USA west of the Appalachian Range north to the southern prairies of Canada. They prefer open grassland habitats with adjoining scattered woods and bushes, where they forage on the ground for insects and seeds. Aside from a few small pockets where they’ll stay year round in places like Oregon, California, southern Idaho, Texas and the Mexican borderland of the American Southwest, most of these birds will migrate south to Mexico for winter.

It is the females who choose the nesting site, either on the ground or low in a tree or bush. Pairs are monogamous for a season and don’t tolerate interlopers in their territory. After nesting, they’ll congregate in loose flocks, often mixing with White-Crowned and Savannah Sparrows.

The meetings I’ve had with Lark Sparrows have been in the western USA in California, Utah, Texas and along the southern borders of Arizona and New Mexico. During my expedition to Texas in the spring of 2020, I spotted these birds at several locations in southern Texas, but only near Brownsville was I able to capture any photos. On my second Texas expedition in 2021, while staying near Mission in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, I found them offering better views.

Today science recognises two subspecies of Lark Sparrow:

  • C. g. grammacus is the eastern form of the species. They breed in Wisconsin and Minnesota south through Nebraska and Kansas to Texas. They spend winters in Texas, Louisiana, and south into Mexico.
  • C. g. strigatus is the western form of the species. They breed in Canada from British Columbia and Alberta to Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and in the western USA from Washington and Oregon to the Dakotas and south to southern California, Nevada, Arizona, and northern Mexico. They spend winters from the southern edge of their breeding range to Louisiana and southwestern Mexico.

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