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.
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.
Planning the attack. Jumping straight up. Ooops! Landing hard!
Going for a ride Wing-batting the seeds Picking them up
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.
Ewwww! A kernel of corn. Where did that come from?
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.
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!