How do birds find enough to eat in the winter? The Horned Lark Story

Horned Lark

Horned Lark

How do birds find enough to eat in the winter? They are very resourceful, even though there may be a thick blanket of snow on the ground.  Discovering how Horned Larks find food in the winter is both entertaining and amazing. They are ground nesters and foragers, thus a good example of adapting to the environment in difficult winters.

All about Birds says this about Horned Larks:

Look carefully at a bare, brown field, especially in winter, and you may be surprised to see it crawling with little brown shapes. When they turn, you may see a neat yellow face, black mask, and tiny black “horns” waving in the breeze. Horned Larks are widespread songbirds of fields, deserts, and tundra, where they forage for seeds and insects, and sing a high, tinkling song. Though they are still common, they have undergone a sharp decline in the last half-century.

Horned Lark

Since these birds are seed and insect eaters, they have devised several ways to get nourishment when the ground is covered with snow. One way is to pick the seeds from weeds in a field.

Horned Lark       Horned Lark       Horned Lark

Planning the attack.                      Jumping straight up.                      Ooops! Landing hard!

Horned Lark       Horned Lark       Horned Lark

Going for a ride                                Wing-batting the seeds                           Picking them up

Horned Lark

Another strategy well-known to birders, is to pick through a fresh manure spread that the Amish have laid on top of the frozen snow.

Horned Lark

Ewwww! A kernel of corn. Where did that come from?

Horned Lark

A third more pleasant experience to observe, is the foraging along roadsides. The snow plows tend to dig up the grass along the road, and the larks will gather to find what they can there.

Lapland Longspur

This really has been a rough winter for all the birds with the continual blanket of snow for months now, but the birds know where to look for food and it’s no cause to put a halt to your birding. If you’re lucky, there may even be a Lapland Longspur mixed in with the Horned Larks!

Lauren Shaffer

Lauren Shaffer wrote 146 posts

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  • brighamstephen

    This is a wonderful picture/story. I can tell you got really low, probably down in the snow for these photos. That gives a great perspective. I really like that first shot with the bird peaking over the snow bank.

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