My mom called these little birds “snow birds” as I was growing up. They would be thick around our farm, especially around the silage pile scratching and feeding on the grain that would fall from the feed truck. They are one of the first birds I learned to identify using my first Golden Field Guide to North American Birds (mine was the 1983 version). I cherished that book, reading about the different types of birds, their habitat, their ranges. In fact, I still have it on my shelf today. Though there’s all kinds of fancy apps out there (I especially like Merlin) that can get the job done much quicker, it’s still fun to go back and look at the detailed drawings and colors that can only be found in a book that couldn’t rely on photos and high speed internet. (Gosh I sound old)
Horned Larks are small, hardy birds common across the Great Plains. They nest on bare ground and in the winter can be seen in flocks of up to 100. They feed primarily on seeds and insects that are found on the ground.
It was disheartening to read that their numbers have declined over 70% since 1966. I’m sure it is tied to the decline of many other prairie species: loss of habitat, new farming practices, and human encroachment.