• Welcome to BirdForum, the internet's largest birding community with thousands of members from all over the world. The forums are dedicated to wild birds, birding, binoculars and equipment and all that goes with it.

    Please register for an account to take part in the discussions in the forum, post your pictures in the gallery and more.
ZEISS DTI thermal imaging cameras. For more discoveries at night, and during the day.

Horned Lark - BirdForum Opus

Horned Lark E. a. alpestris, adult
Photo © by kegressy
Fisherville, Ontario, Canada

Includes: Shore Lark

Eremophila alpestris


14–17 cm (5½-6¾ in)


Shore Lark E. a. flava, adult
Photo © by IanF
Seaton Carew, Durham, UK; November 2013
  • Pale or dark brown upperparts.
  • White underparts.
  • White or pale yellow face and throat with black mask, collar, and ear tufts.
  • Tail brown with white edges.
  • Sexes are similar


  • White-spotted brown upperparts, head and face
  • White eyebrow
  • No ear tufts
  • White underparts with faintly spotted breast


Caucasian Lark E. a. penicillata, adult - note extensive black mask
Photo © by baharro
Aladağlar National Park, Turkey; May 2006

Circumpolar; tundra, and south in mountain plateaux, plains and semi-deserts to the Atlas Mountains in northwest Africa, the Balkans in Europe, the Zagros and Himalaya in Asia, and the northernmost Andes in the Americas. Arctic populations are strongly migratory, while southern mountain populations are resident or short-distance altitudinal migrants.


Complex. The currently accepted broad circumscription of a single species with 42 subspecies[1] has recently been shown to leave the species paraphyletic with respect to the closely related Temminck's Lark[2]; a split into six species (as arranged below) is likely to be accepted formally in the near future.

Of interest as the sole species of a diverse Old World family to have colonised the New World; a similar example in reverse is the Eurasian Wren.


Atlas Lark E. a. atlas
Photo © by Peter Day
High Atlas Mountains, Morocco; Feb 2018
E. a. balcanica, juvenile
Photo © by James Thomas
Photo © by DJ ODonnell
Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR, Colorado, 12 April 2019
  • atlas group (Atlas Lark E. atlas; Atlas Mountains of north-west Africa; Monotypic.)
    • E. a. atlas: Atlas Mountains of Morocco
  • penicillata group (Caucasian Lark E. penicillata; mountains of south-east Europe, south-west Asia; 5 subspecies)
  • longirostris group (Himalayan Lark E. longirostris; Sino-himalayan mountains; 7 subspecies)
    • E. a. longirostris: north-western Himalayas
    • E. a. teleschowi: mountains of western China (extreme south-eastern Xinjiang)
    • E. a. argalea: western China (extreme sw Xinjiang) to northwestern India (Kashmir to Ladakh)
    • E. a. elwesi: western China (southern Qinghai and southern Tibet) to northern Sikkim
    • E. a. khamensis: south-western China (Kham region of western and southern Sichuan)
    • E. a. nigrifrons: western China (Kokonor to western Gansu)
    • E. a. przewalskii: western China (north-western Qinghai)
  • flava group (Shore Lark E. flava; arctic Eurasia; monotypic)
    • E. a. flava: arctic Eurasia
  • brandti group (Steppe Lark E. brandti; central Asia; monotypic)
    • E. a. brandti: steppes of central Asia to mountains of western Mongolia and northern China
  • alpestris group (Horned Lark E. alpestris; Americas; 27 subspecies)
    • E. a. hoyti: arctic coast of North America to southern Canada; winters to northern US
    • E. a. alpestris: arctic north-eastern Canada to Newfoundland; winters coastal south-eastern US
    • E. a. praticola: south-eastern Canada to central and east-central US
    • E. a. giraudi: coastal prairie region of south-eastern Texas to eastern Mexico (north-eastern Tamaulipas)
    • E. a. arcticola: north Alaska to mountains of British Columbia and northern Washington
    • E. a. alpina: arctic-alpine summits of north-western US (Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens)
    • E. a. leucolaema: southern Canada to south-western US and north-western Texas; winters north-western Mexico
    • E. a. enthymia: great Plains of central Canada to central US; winters northern Mexico
    • E. a. merrilli: eastern slope of Cascades and adjacent lowlands from British Columbia to north-eastern California
    • E. a. lamprochroma: south-eastern Oregon to south-western Idaho, north-eastern California and western Nevada
    • E. a. utahensis: south-central Idaho to east-central Nevada and west-central Utah
    • E. a. ammophila: deserts of south-western Nevada and south-eastern California; winters north-western Mexico
    • E. a. leucansiptila: Colorado Desert (south-western Nevada, western Arizona, north-eastern Baja California and north-western Sonora)
    • E. a. occidentalis: northern and central Arizona to north-central New Mexico; winters northern Mexico
    • E. a. strigata: humid coastal belt of south-western British Columbia and north-western US west of the Cascades
    • E. a. sierrae: mountains of north-eastern California (southern Cascades and northern Sierra Nevada)
    • E. a. rubea: central California (Sacramento Valley)
    • E. a. actia: coastal range of southern California (Humboldt Co.) to northern Baja California
    • E. a. insularis: channel Islands (off southern California)
    • E. a. adusta: south Arizona (south of Tucson) to extreme south-western New Mexico and northern Sonora
    • E. a. enertera: west-central Baja California and coastal islands southern of Magdalena Bay
    • E. a. aphrasta: north-western Mexico (Chihuahua and Durango)
    • E. a. lactea: north-eastern Mexico (Coahuila)
    • E. a. diaphora: north-eastern Mexico (south-eastern Coahuila to southern Tamaulipas, Hidalgo and north-eastern Puebla)
    • E. a. chrysolaema: southern Mexican Plateau (Jalisco to Michoacán, Puebla and Veracruz)
    • E. a. oaxacae: southern Mexico (east Oaxaca)
    • E. a. peregrina: eastern Andes of Colombia


Arctic and alpine tundra, plains, fields, and beaches.



Adults' diet includes weed and grass seeds; insects are fed to the young.



  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2018. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2018. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Drovetski, S. V., Raković, M., Semenov, G., Fadeev, I. V., & Red'kin, Y. A. (2014). Limited phylogeographic signal in sex-linked and autosomal loci despite geographically, ecologically, and phenotypically concordant structure of mtDNA variation in the Holarctic avian genus Eremophila. PLoS ONE 9 (1): e87570.
  3. Birdforum thread discussing taxonomy of Horned Larks (post #20 et seq. for recent research)

Recommended Citation

External Links

GSearch checked for 2020 platform.