Conservation status In recent decades, has declined or disappeared in some former nesting areas east of the Mississippi River. Still fairly common and widespread in West.
Family New World Sparrows
Habitat Open country with bushes, trees; pastures, farms, roadsides. For nesting, generally favors areas with some open bare ground and some taller plants; included are overgrazed pastures, sandy barrens, hedgerows near fallow fields, brushy dry grasslands, sometimes open pinyon-juniper woods. In migration and winter, found in similar areas, also open weedy fields.
Many sparrows are challenging to identify, but this one is a striking exception, with its bold face pattern and broad, white-edged tail. Lark Sparrows favor areas with bare open ground and scattered bushes, habitats that are more common in the West and Midwest than in the East; they often forage conspicuously out in the open. When going from place to place, they tend to fly higher than most sparrows, giving a sharp callnote as they pass overhead.

Feeding Behavior

Does almost all its foraging while walking about on the ground in open areas. Typically forages in small, loose flocks.


4-5, sometimes 3-6. Creamy to grayish white, spotted with brown and black. Incubation is by female, 11-12 days. Young: Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave the nest about 9-10 days after hatching.


Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave the nest about 9-10 days after hatching.


Mostly seeds and insects. Feeds heavily on seeds, especially in winter, including those of grasses and weeds as well as waste grain. Also eats many insects, especially in summer, including grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars, and many others. Young are fed mostly insects, also some grass seeds.


In courtship, male may strut about on the ground near the female, with his bill pointed up and his tail spread wide to show off the white corners. Nest: Both sexes may take part in choosing nest site, with male placing twigs at potential site, but female does actual building. Site varies; often on ground near base of tall weed, but may be up in shrubs or low trees, up to 7' above the ground, sometimes higher. Sometimes may nest in crevices in rocky cliffs. Nest is an open cup of grass, weeds, twigs, lined with fine grass, rootlets, animal hair.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

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Migrates relatively late in spring and early in fall. Small numbers appear on the Atlantic seaboard in fall, mostly along the immediate coast.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon

See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.

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Songs and Calls

Alternating buzzes and melodious trills.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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