Saturday, January 26, 2013

Lark Bunting

Some couples have "Their Song;" Erika and I have "Our Bird”—the Lark Bunting. An abundant bird, the sparrow is restricted to the American Great Plains grasslands. Erika and I first saw them when we met on a college camping trip across North Dakota and the Pacific Northwest. The photo was taken near Pierre, South Dakota. When we first moved to South Dakota, Lark Buntings could be seen in the Aberdeen area. After about a decade of relatively wet weather, however, these buntings appeared to retreat further west towards the Missouri River (as did Burrowing Owls).

Lark Buntings are unusual among sparrows in that males have a drab basic (winter) plumage and a bold alternate (breeding) one. During the winter in the southwest or northern Mexico, Lark Buntings are nomadic. In the spring, they slowly migrate north. Males arrive at breeding areas before females and establish compact territories. They nest on the ground, but the territories often include a plant to provide shade and from which they spiral up with stiff wing-beats while singing flight songs.

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