Lark Bunting

Lark Bunting
Lark Bunting
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Emberizidae
Genus: Calamospiza
Bonaparte 1838
Species: C. melanocorys
Binomial name
Calamospiza melanocorys
Stejneger, 1885

The Lark Bunting, Calamospiza melanocorys, is a medium-sized sparrow. It is monotypic, the only member of the genus Calamospiza (Bonaparte, 1838).



These birds have a small gray bill and a white wing patch. Adult males in breeding plumage are black except for their white wing patch. Other birds are more sparrow-like in appearance; they have dark brown upperparts and white underparts, with streaking on the back, breast and flanks. The wings are dark with brown edges.

Their breeding habitat is prairie regions in central Canada and the mid-western United States. The nest is an open cup on the ground in a grassy area. The birds typically nest in dispersed colonies. Males fly up over their territory and sing while descending to declare ownership of a nesting territory. The song consists of a mix of whistles and trills. The call is a soft hoo.Flocks of these birds migrate to southern Texas and Mexico in the fall.

They forage on the ground, mainly eating insects in summer and seeds in winter; they sometimes take short flights in pursuit of insects. Outside of the nesting season, they often feed in flocks.

This bird's numbers have decreased with the loss of natural prairie habitat.

The lark bunting is the state bird of Colorado.


  • BirdLife International (2004). Calamospiza melanocorys. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 12 May 2006. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concernThis species, of which there are in my possession several specimens, presented to me by my friend Mr. NUTTALL, was discovered by that zealous naturalist and his companion Mr. TOWNSEND on the plains of the Platte, and briefly characterized in the Journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. From its general appearance, and especially from what is known of its habits, I consider it closely allied to the Rice Bunting, Dolichonyx oryzivora; I have adopted the appellation given by its discoverers, the latter of whom has favoured me with the following notice respecting it.

"The Prairie Finch inhabits a portion of the Platte country, in large flocks. It is strictly gregarious, and feeds upon bats, along which it runs like the Grass Finch, Fringilla graminea, to which it is somewhat allied. As the large flocks, consisting of from sixty to a hundred individuals, were started from the ground by our caravan in passing, the piebald appearance of the males and females promiscuously intermingled, presented a curious, but by no means unpleasing, effect. While the flock is engaged in feeding, the males are frequently observed to rise suddenly to a considerable height in the air, and poising themselves over their companions, with their wings in constant and rapid motion, they become nearly stationary. In this situation they pour forth a number of very lively and sweetly modulated notes, and at the expiration of about a minute descend to the ground, and course about as before. I never observed this bird to the west of the Black Hills."

Mr. NUTTALL'S notice respecting it is as follows:--"On the 24th of May, soon after crossing the north branch of the Platte, we met with this very interesting species of Fringilla. The males associated in flocks with the Cow-birds, uttering a most delightful song. Towards evening in particular, we sometimes saw them in all directions around us on the hilly grounds, rising to a little height, hovering and flapping their wings, at the same time singing something like weet, weet, wt, wt, wt, notes betwixt the hurried warble of the Bob-o-link, and the melody of the Sky Lark. It is in short one of the sweetest songsters of the prairie, is tame and unsuspicious, the whole employment of the little band being an ardent emulation of song."

FRINGILLA BICOLOR, Prairie Finch, Towns., Jour. Acad. Nat. Sc. Phil.,vol. vii. p. 189

PRAIRIE FINCH, Fringilla bicolor, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. v. p. 19.

Adult Male.

Bill short, robust, conical, compressed; upper mandible a little narrower, with the dorsal line very slightly convex, the ridge slightly prolonged on the forehead, the sides convex and bulging, the edges direct, the gap-line nearly straight, deflected at the base, the tip sharp and a little exceeding that of the lower mandible; the angle of the latter short and very broad, the dorsal line ascending and slightly convex, the back broad, the sides rounded, the edges inflected, the tip pointed. Nostrils basal, oval, in a very short deep depression, nearly concealed by the feather's.

Head rather large; neck short; body full. Feet of ordinary length, rather strong; tarsus of moderate length, compressed, anteriorly covered with seven scutella, behind with two plates meeting so as to form a very thin edge; toes of moderate size, the hind toe stouter, the lateral equal. Claws rather long, arched, much compressed, laterally grooved, tapering to a very acute point.

Plumage soft and blended, the feathers ovate and rounded. There are distinct but small bristles at the base of the upper mandible. Wings of moderate length; the outer three quills nearly equal, the second being longest, the fourth slightly shorter than the third; outer secondaries broadly rounded and emarginate; inner tapering to a rounded point, one of them, when the wing is closed, little shorter than the outer primaries. Tail of moderate length, a little rounded, the lateral feathers shorter than the longest by two and a half twelfths.

The bill is light blue, the upper mandible somewhat dusky along the ridge; the feet and claws reddish-brown. The general colour of the plumage is greyish-black, the rump blackish-grey. The quills are blackish-brown, the inner secondaries black. There is a large patch of white on the wing including some of the smaller coverts, the tips of the first row, and the secondary coverts; the primaries and outer secondaries are narrowly, the inner secondaries broadly margined with white, with which most of them are also tipped. The middle tail-feathers are black, the rest brownish-black, all narrowly edged with white, and having a narrow speck of the same at the end of the inner web. Some of the feathers on the abdomen and the lower tail-coverts are also tipped with white.

Length to end of tail 7 inches; bill along the ridge (7 1/4)/12, along the edge of lower mandible 7/12; wing from flexure 3 5/12; tail 2 8/12; tarsus (11 1/4)/12, hind toe (4 1/4)/12, its claw (4 1/2)/12 middle toe 8/12, its claw 3/12.

Adult Female.

The female, which is smaller than the male, differs greatly in colour. The bill is dusky above, pale beneath; the feet as in the male. The upper parts are greyish-brown, streaked with dusky brown, the lower white, with oblong spots of brownish-black, the abdomen nearly pure, the sides tinged with reddish-brown. The quills are dark brown, edged and tipped with reddish-white, and the patch on the wing is of the same tint. The tail feathers are also dark brown, the outer externally edged, and all tipped with white on the inner web.

Length to end of tail 6 1/2 inches; bill along the ridge (5 1/4)/12; wing from flexure 3 1/2; tail 2 5/12; tarsus 11/12; hind toe 4/12, its claw 4/12; middle toe (7 1/2)/12, its claw (3 1/4)/12.

Further reading


  • Shane, T. G. 2000. Lark Bunting (Calamospiza melanocorys). In The Birds of North America, No. 542 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.


  • Chaine AS. Ph.D. (2006). The evolution of multiple sexual signals in a passerine: Trait structure and selection in a dynamic world. University of California, Santa Cruz, United States—California.
  • Pleszczynska W. Ph.D. (1978). Polygyny in the lark bunting. University of Toronto (Canada), Canada.
  • Yackel Adams AA. Ph.D. (2005). Population demography of lark buntings: Post-fledging survival, fecundity, and breeding decisions. Colorado State University, United States—Colorado.


  • Adams AAY, Skagen SK & Savidge JA. (2006). Modeling post-fledging survival of Lark Buntings in response to ecological and biological factors. Ecology. vol 87, no 1. pp. 178–188.
  • Ashe VM & Taylor S. (1973). An Ethographic Analysis of the Flight Display of the Male Lark Bunting Calamospiza-Melanocorys Passeriformes Fringillidae. American Zoologist. vol 13, no 4.
  • Baldwin PH, Butterfield JD, Creighton PD & Shook R. (1971). Summer Ecology of the Lark Bunting Pawnee Site. Us Ibp. vol 1, no 1.
  • Bliese JCW & Einemann LL. (1970). Lark Bunting. Nebraska Bird Review. vol 38, no 4.
  • Bock CE & Bock JH. (1987). Avian Habitat Occupancy Following Fire in a Montana USA Shrubsteppe. Prairie Naturalist. vol 19, no 3. pp. 153–158.
  • Burford FC. (1971). Lark Bunting at Pea Island North-Carolina. Chat. vol 35, no 2.
  • Carson RJ & Spicer GS. (2003). A phylogenetic analysis of the emberizid sparrows based on three mitochondrial genes. Molecular Phylogenetics & Evolution. vol 29, no 1. pp. 43–57.
  • Clancey PA. (1989). Subspeciation in the Lark-Like Bunting of the Southwestern Afrotropics. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club. vol 109, no 3. pp. 130–134.
  • Creighton PD. (1971). Nesting of the Lark Bunting in North Central Colorado. Us Ibp. vol 1, no 4.
  • Easterla DA. (1970). 1st Nesting Colonies of the Lark Bunting in Missouri. Wilson Bulletin. vol 82, no 4. pp. 465–466.
  • Hallet ML. (1973). A Lark Bunting in Milwaukee County. Passenger Pigeon. vol 35, no 1.
  • Hill RA. (1976). Host Parasite Relationships of the Brown-Headed Cowbird in a Prairie Habitat of West Central Kansas USA. Wilson Bulletin. vol 88, no 4. pp. 555–565.
  • Jehle G, Adams AAY, Savidge JA & Skagen SK. (2004). Nest survival estimation: A review of alternatives to the Mayfield estimator. Condor. vol 106, no 3. pp. 472–484.
  • Johnson DH & Igl LD. (1995). Contributions of the conservation reserve program to populations of breeding birds in North Dakota. Wilson Bulletin. vol 107, no 4. pp. 709–718.
  • Johnson RR. (1968). 1968 Lark Bunting Sightings in Northeastern South-Dakota USA. South Dakota Bird Notes. vol 22, no 4.
  • Jones ZF & Bock CE. (2002). Conservation of grassland birds in an urbanizing landscape: A historical perspective. Condor. vol 104, no 3. pp. 643–651.
  • Kantrud HA & Kologiski RL. (1982). Effects of Soils and Grazing on Breeding Birds of Uncultivated Upland Grasslands of the Northern Great Plains USA. U S Fish & Wildlife Service Wildlife Research Report. vol 15, pp. 1–33.
  • Lerg JM. (1976). Lark Bunting in Missaukee County. Jack Pine Warbler. vol 54, no 1.
  • Lima SL. (1990). Protective Cover and the Use of Space Different Strategies in Finches. Oikos. vol 58, no 2. pp. 151–158.
  • Lokemoen JT & Koford RR. (1996). Using candlers to determine the incubation stage of passerine eggs. Journal of Field Ornithology. vol 67, no 4. pp. 660–668.
  • McNair DB & Dean JP. (2003). Distributional information on birds from egg sets collected by Henry Rogers Durkee in 1870 in southwestern Wyoming. Western North American Naturalist. vol 63, no 3. pp. 320–332.
  • McNeil R & Doyon D. (1970). Lark Bunting in Quebec. Canadian Field Naturalist. vol 84, no 4.
  • Miles M. (1969). 1st Specimen of the Lark Bunting from Alabama. Auk. vol 86, no 4.
  • Nero RW. (1982). Post Copulatory Display in the Lark Bunting Calamospiza-Melanocorys and Other Species. Wilson Bulletin. vol 94, no 4. pp. 585–590.
  • Nero RW. (1993). Lark bunting: Western prairie marvel. Blue Jay. vol 51, no 1. pp. 30–33.
  • Peterson AT & Cohoon KP. (1999). Sensitivity of distributional prediction algorithms to geographic data completeness. Ecological Modelling. vol 117, no 1. pp. 159–164.
  • Pleszczynska W & Hansell RIC. (1980). Polygyny and Decision Theory Testing of a Model in Lark Buntings Calamospiza-Melanocorys. American Naturalist. vol 116, no 6. pp. 821–830.
  • Pleszczynska WK. (1978). Micro Geographic Prediction of Polygyny in the Lark Bunting. Science. vol 201, no 4359. pp. 935–937.
  • Pleszczynska WK. (1978). MICROGEOGRAPHIC PREDICTION OF POLYGYNY IN LARK BUNTING. Science. vol 201, no 4359. pp. 935–937.
  • Sealy SG. (1999). Cowbird parasitism on Lark Buntings: Frequency, acceptance, and fledging. Journal of Field Ornithology. vol 70, no 2. pp. 182–186.
  • Siljenberg AM. (1969). Lark Bunting in Clay County. South Dakota Bird Notes. vol 22, no 3.
  • Skagen SK, Adams AAY & Adams RD. (2005). Nest survival relative to patch size in a highly fragmented shortgrass prairie landscape. Wilson Bulletin. vol 117, no 1. pp. 23–34.
  • Spicer GS. (1978). A New Species and Several New Host Records of Avian Nasal Mites Acarina Rhinonyssinae Turbinoptinae. Journal of Parasitology. vol 64, no 5. pp. 891–894.
  • Squires JR, Anderson SH & Oakleaf R. (1989). Food Habits of Nesting Prairie Falcons in Campbell County Wyoming USA. Journal of Raptor Research. vol 23, no 4. pp. 157–161.
  • Sterner RT, Petersen BE, Gaddis SE, Tope KL & Poss DJ. (2003). Impacts of small mammals and birds on low-tillage, dryland crops. Crop Protection. vol 22, no 4. pp. 595–602.
  • Taylor S & Ashe VM. (1976). The Flight Display and Other Behaviors of Male Lark Buntings Calamospiza-Melanochorys. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society. vol 7, no 6. pp. 527–529.
  • Teuber L. (1969). Lark Bunting in Oxon Hill Maryland USA. Atlantic Naturalist. vol 24, no 2.
  • Tyler JD. (1985). The Lark Bunting Calamospiza-Melanocorys in Oklahoma USA. Bulletin of the Oklahoma Ornithological Society. vol 18, no 4. pp. 25–28.
  • Wilbur SR, Carrier WD & McCaskie G. (1971). The Lark Bunting in California. California Birds. vol 2, no 2. pp. 73–76.
  • Williams E. (1968). Birds About Milbank South-Dakota USA Scarlet Tanager Avocets Lark Bunting and Redstarts. South Dakota Bird Notes. vol 22, no 4.
  • Winter SL, Cully JF, Jr. & Pontius JS. (2003). Breeding season avifauna of prairie dog colonies and non-colonized areas in shortgrass prairie. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science. vol 106, no 3-4. pp. 129–138.
  • Winterbottom JM. (1972). Status of the Lark-Like Bunting in the South-West Cape. Ostrich. vol 43, no 2.
  • With KA & Webb DR. (1993). Microclimate of ground nests: The relative importance of radiative cover and wind breaks for three grassland species. Condor. vol 95, no 2. pp. 401–413.
  • Wunder BA. (1979). Evaporative Water Loss from Birds Effects of Artificial Radiation. Comparative Biochemistry & Physiology A. vol 63, no 4. pp. 493–494.
  • Yackel Adams AA, Skagen SK & Adams RD. (2001). Movements and survival of Lark Bunting fledglings. Condor. vol 103, no 3. pp. 643–647.
  • Zimmerman JL. (1996). Comparison of water consumption between two grassland emberizids. Prairie Naturalist. vol 27, no 4. pp. 215–221.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Lark bunting — Lark Lark, n. [OE. larke, laverock, AS. l[=a]werce; akin to D. leeuwerik, LG. lewerke, OHG. l[=e]rahha, G. lerche, Sw. l[ a]rka, Dan. lerke, Icel. l[ae]virki.] (Zo[ o]l.) Any one numerous species of singing birds of the genus {Alauda} and allied… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • lark bunting — vieversinės startos statusas T sritis zoologija | vardynas atitikmenys: lot. Calamospiza angl. lark bunting vok. Prärieammer, f rus. жаворонковая овсянка, f pranc. bruant noir et blanc, m ryšiai: platesnis terminas – startos siauresnis terminas – …   Paukščių pavadinimų žodynas

  • lark bunting — vieversinė starta statusas T sritis zoologija | vardynas atitikmenys: lot. Calamospiza melanocorys angl. lark bunting vok. Prärieammer, f rus. жаворонковая овсянка, f pranc. bruant noir et blanc, m ryšiai: platesnis terminas – vieversinės startos …   Paukščių pavadinimų žodynas

  • lark bunting — noun : a large finch (Calamospiza melanocorys) of the plains of the western United States that has the male black with a large white wing patch * * * a finch, Calamospiza melanocorys, of the western U.S., the male of which is black with a large,… …   Useful english dictionary

  • lark bunting — a finch, Calamospiza melanocorys, of the western U.S., the male of which is black with a large, white patch on each wing. [1830 40, Amer.] * * * …   Universalium

  • Bunting — Bun ting, n. [Scot. buntlin, corn buntlin, OE. bunting, buntyle; of unknown origin.] (Zo[ o]l.) A bird of the genus {Emberiza}, or of an allied genus, related to the finches and sparrows (family {Fringillid[ae]}). [1913 Webster] Note: Among… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Lark — Lark, n. [OE. larke, laverock, AS. l[=a]werce; akin to D. leeuwerik, LG. lewerke, OHG. l[=e]rahha, G. lerche, Sw. l[ a]rka, Dan. lerke, Icel. l[ae]virki.] (Zo[ o]l.) Any one numerous species of singing birds of the genus {Alauda} and allied… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Lark sparrow — Lark Lark, n. [OE. larke, laverock, AS. l[=a]werce; akin to D. leeuwerik, LG. lewerke, OHG. l[=e]rahha, G. lerche, Sw. l[ a]rka, Dan. lerke, Icel. l[ae]virki.] (Zo[ o]l.) Any one numerous species of singing birds of the genus {Alauda} and allied… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Bunting (bird) — For other uses, see bunting. Buntings Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella Scientific classification …   Wikipedia

  • Lark — Taxobox name = Larks image width = 240px image caption = Crested Lark regnum = Animalia phylum = Chordata classis = Aves ordo = Passeriformes subordo = Passeri familia = Alaudidae subdivision ranks = Genera subdivision = * Mirafra * Pinarocorys * …   Wikipedia

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