Friday, August 3, 2012

Horned Lark

After reading about The Flower Fields of Carlsbad, California, Erika and I visited as we drove along the Coast Highway. Although we were somewhat disappointed to discover a monoculture of giant Ranunculus, we enjoyed our stop. I did manage to see a couple of interesting birds. The first were a few Horned Larks that allowed close approach.

In Europe and Asia, this species is found from the arctic to North Africa; in the Americas, it is found from the arctic through Mexico, with an outlying population in Columbia. Horned Larks are extremely variable across this huge range. Twenty-one subspecies have been described from the New World. (See how different a Minnesota bird's eye stripe color is compared to this California bird.) Color tends to match local soil color. Western races tend to be smaller and paler than northeastern ones. Migratory races have longer wings than sedentary subspecies. Desert birds tend to have longer legs than those from cooler areas. Where their ranges meet, most of these races interbreed. Perhaps signifying New and Old World races are separate species, Siberian and North American races overlap but do not interbreed in the Aleutians (Beason 1995).

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