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Las Vegas, NV - unknwn LBJ in the desert (1 Viewer)

Jim M.

Choose Civility
I agree that these do indeed appear to be Sprague's Pipits. They are sometimes confused with juvenile Horned Larks. Compare this photo: http://www.cbc.ca/ideas/features/pastures-unsung/images/spragues.pipit-bill-schmoke.jpg

Note the bug eyed appearance, apparent streaked crown, and stout (for a pipit) pale bill. The only thing that does not seem to quite fit is that the legs appear somewhat dark; Sprague's Pipit should have pale pink legs. But perhaps this is just an effect of shadow.

According to my references, Sprague's Pipit is extremely unusual in Nevada. I am not sure if Nevada has an avian records committee, but if it does I suggest you forward your photos to them. Very nice find in any event!

Best,
Jim
 

cnybirder

Well-known member
I agree as well.

All sparrows can be ruled out by the Pipit jizz.
Horned Larks can be ruled out by leg color and a few other points.
I think American Pipit can be ruled out by bill size, feather patterns, etc.

So it should be a Sprague's Pipit. The legs look pale pink to me, but they are in the shadow.

Here is the URL for the NBRC:
Nevada Bird Records Committee

This is indeed a rare sighting, but there are at least a few records (not sure the exact number as they don't have their records online) in Nevada.
 

jforb

Active member
It's a juvy Horned Lark.
From Photonote: Identification Pitfalls: Juvenile Horned Lark, Birding 29(4):333, larks have:
deeper bill
darker legs
salt-and-pepper crown as opposed to streaked
long primary extension
scaly back as opposed to dark and buff-brown striping

Legs are the only thing that don't say lark to me and that's easily light or a photo artifact.
 

Microtus

Maryland USA (he/him)
Supporter
United States
If there are two birds, that would point toward juvenile Horned Lark rather than the locally rare Sprague's Pipit.

I think these birds are juvenile Horned Larks. The birds are spotted across the breast (not streaked), the supercilium is prominent, the legs are dark, and there is a lot of white on the wing coverts. The face seems too strongly patterned for Sprague's Pipit, and there is no buffy wash on the underparts.
 

logsaysned

Well-known member
its definitely a juvenile Horned Lark. in addition to what others have posted, observe the tail in photos 7 and 8. although the tail is folded, you can see the thin white edging on the outer feather, then black, then grayish brown in the middle. Sprague's Pipits have much more white in the tail and no black.
 

Jim M.

Choose Civility
Well it looks like I (we?) was misled by a Sibley's drawing once again. (Though I do not dispute Sibley's is a great improvement over previous guides). The drawing of a juvenile Horned Lark in my Sibley's bears little resemblance to the birds in the photos. The Sibley's drawing shows juveniles with a dark breast and heavy white spotting on the back and head, together with an overall dark brown coloration. (And my National Wildlife Federation photographic guide shows a photo of a juvenile Horned Lark that looks quite similar to the Sibley drawing -- so Sibley is not completely wrong here -- and is described as "odd speckled plumage held briefly".) But I have found one photo (but only one) of a juvenile Horned Lark that suggests they can look like suprisingly similar to the subject bird (with bug eyed appearance, pale stout bill, etc.), as well as similar to a Sprague's Pipit. See here: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/BirdGuide/Horned_Lark.html

It would be nice to have more photos of juvenile Horned Larks for comparison, but I am leaning towards juvenile Horned Lark at this point. I agree the facial pattern, among other features, looks wrong for Sprague's Pipit (I was actually looking at European Pipits to see if I could find a better match).

A few comments on the above comments:

Legs are the only thing that don't say lark to me and that's easily light or a photo artifact.

Actually the legs are clearly grayish (and appear dark in most of the photos). Sprague's Pipit has pink legs, so the legs support Horned Lark in my opinion. (But thanks for summarizing the article from Birding.)

If there are two birds, that would point toward juvenile Horned Lark rather than the locally rare Sprague's Pipit.

I am not sure how much that should figure into the analysis. Just recently we have been having pairs of vagrants showing up in Massachusetts, for example: Two Gull-billed Terns, two White-faced Ibis, two Ruffs, two Slaty-backed Gulls, two Townsend's Solitaires, and multiple Clay-Colored Sparrows moving in to expand their breeding range. I think there are usually good reasons that birds show up in unexpected places, and those reasons may easily apply to more than one individual.

I think these birds are juvenile Horned Larks. The birds are spotted across the breast (not streaked)...

Well, to me the breast on the first bird looks spotted, and the breast on the second bird looks streaked. And in the photo of a Sprague's Pipit I linked to, the breast looks spotted. So I am not sure this tells us much.

its definitely a juvenile Horned Lark. in addition to what others have posted, observe the tail in photos 7 and 8. although the tail is folded, you can see the thin white edging on the outer feather, then black, then grayish brown in the middle. Sprague's Pipits have much more white in the tail and no black.

I agree the tail pattern looks good for Horned Lark. But, in most of the photos I have seen of Sprague's Pipit, they show very little white on the tail when sitting/walking. See these photos for example: http://prairieice.blogspot.com/2007/08/spragues-pipit.html
Also, at least one photo appears to show a Sprague's Pipit with dark central tail feathers: http://www.pbase.com/image/74138205

Best,
Jim
 
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fugl

Well-known member
Got these the other day out at Corn Creek/Desert Wildlife Refuge (North of Las Vegas). They were running around the edge of the dirt road...

As others have said, juvenile Horned Larks. They can be very confusing--I get caught off guard by them every year. In northern Nevada I've encountered the first ones as early as mid-May.
 

JANJ

Well-known member
Clearly not a Sprague´s Pipit and for some of the reasons mentioned here
Here´s a Juvenile Horned tocompare with - a good match:

http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/BirdGuide/Horned_Lark.html

Jim - failed to find a pic. showing the exact tail pattern of Sprague´s, that is to say, showing tf 1 being grey-brown with narrow pale edges, tf 2-4 blackish-brown with tf 4 often with some white at the tip, tf 5 almost all white on outer web and a long white wedge on innner web with a blackish-brown base, tf 6 (outer one) with all white outer web and almost all inner web.

Speaking of Horned Lark:

http://www.surfbirds.com/ID Articles/smallhlark/smallhlark0504.html

JanJ
 
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Jim M.

Choose Civility

JANJ

Well-known member

Jim M.

Choose Civility
Alright Jim, missed your similar link.
However the subject bird is still a Horned Lark

Oh I wasn't disputing that, I just found it odd that there were so few photos or drawings of juvenile horned larks that were similar to the subject birds. But I see you succeeded in your last link to find one more photo--but the other juvenile lark photos that you also found show a bird that looks very different from the subject bird. Perhaps the juvenile appearance has different phases of development and the phase we have in the subject birds is a more mature phase that does not last long, so it is infrequently depicted.

Best,
Jim
 

Jeff Hopkins

Just another...observer
United States
Here's another vote for juvie horned lark. The bug-eyed look, strong facial pattern and larger bill do it for me. They tend to be very scruffy looking, which this one is.
 

Microtus

Maryland USA (he/him)
Supporter
United States
If there are two birds, that would point toward juvenile Horned Lark rather than the locally rare Sprague's Pipit.

My thinking was: given the choice between Sprague's Pipit and juvenile Horned Lark, the fact that there were two birds running around Corn Creek at fairly close range points toward the common breeding species Horned Lark and away from the locally rare (and apparently a state review species) Sprague's Pipit.
 

cnybirder

Well-known member
Well, I can now see that it is a Juvenile Horned Lark.

That is the first thing I thought it was but the pinkish legs and large bill threw me off. Sibley illustrates a smaller bill (perhaps the bill length differs between subspecies) and black legs.
However I should have stuck with Horned Lark due to the wing length (which I did notice but for some reason dismissed it).

I am glad we have this sort of discussions here on Birdforum. I certainly learned a few things!
 

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