This distinctive sparrow has a dark streaked back with chestnut colored cheeks and crown, with white and tan facial stripes. The belly is white with a black breast spot. These sparrows feed on seeds and insects, normally foraging on the ground in prairies and open woodlands.

Lark sparrow. Photo by James Taulman.

The Lark sparrow’s breeding range is widespread across the Midwest and Great Plains from Texas to Canada and up through the western states of New Mexico and Arizona through Utah and Nevada and up into Washington. Eggs are either laid on the ground in a grass cup nest or up to 5 feet in shrubs or trees. The female may build a new nest or use one made by another species. Both parents participate in feeding the young after hatching. They overwinter in Mexico.

The species is not endangered but populations have declined east of the Mississippi in recent years, probably due to the use of pesticides to control grasshoppers and conversion of habitat to agriculture production. Lark sparrows have been known to live more than 9 years.

Photos taken near old Hwy 41, Moriarty, NM. Nikon P900 camera.


James Taulman is a semi-retired research wildlife biologist, having worked with the U.S. Forest Service research branch and taught zoology, ecology, and other courses in several university positions. He is currently living in the East Mountains, and explores natural areas observing native wildlife and conducting independent research projects.