Saturday, June 25, 2011

Lark Sparrow

Another good birding location in South Dakota's Badlands National Park is the Cedar Pass nature trail.  Uncharacteristically, we did not observe many birds during our visit.  An exception was a tame Lark Sparrow, a species I previously tried to photograph with relative lack of success.

Erika commented, "This Lark Sparrow is really posing!"  The sparrow strutted, holding its head high. I learned from Martin and Parrish (2000) that, unlike other songbirds, Lark Sparrows perform "turkey-like strutting with tail upright, flashing white tail spots, and wings dropped to the ground." Females often use nests abandoned by other species.

Lark Sparrows breed across much of the western United States.  Formerly this sparrow also bred to the Atlantic coast, but its breeding range has been receding--now it is found east only across Minnesota and Iowa.  Hypotheses for this retreat include the reforestation of eastern fields and the spread of urbanization. A Lark Sparrow was one of the first rare birds I ever recorded--a bird at our Virginia bird feeder.  Most years I see a few in Minnesota.  They become common in western South Dakota.

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