Lark Bunting

Lark Bunting, Colorado

Lark Bunting, CO; male in breeding plumage

This beautiful sparrow can be seen in the prairies of central North America, feeding on insects and seeds.  We rarely see prairie birds, for there aren’t many endless prairies left on earth.


Spending the winter months in Mexico, Calamospiza melanocorys migrate to the Great Plains in spring for nesting.  They arrive on the breeding grounds in large flocks.


We were in the Pawnee Grasslands in eastern Colorado, fortunately it was prairie bird breeding season.  We had no idea what a treat we were in for, having only seen this bird for the first time.



Pawnee Grasslands, Colorado

Pawnee Grasslands, Colorado

We had just met the couple who owned the house we were staying in, they worked the ranch and the guest house, and lived here.  This was their house in the middle of their 9,000 acres of grass and ranch.


The owner, Paul, was going out to check on a newborn calf and invited us to join him.  After he checked on the calf, we bumped across the pasture so he could show us the Lark Buntings.  This quiet rancher with few words wanted to show us the Lark Bunting display.


We had seen the bird driving in–it’s so distinctive with the white wing marking on black–but hadn’t seen the courtship displays.  It is Colorado’s State Bird.


Here’s what happens:  the male flies up about 20 feet above the ground, and then slowly flutters down on outstretched wings, whistling and trilling until he eventually disappears in the tall grass.  Click here to hear his song.


Paul was a slow-talking Colorado rancher who had lived here his whole life, and we were California birders awestruck by so much open space.  And there we three sat, shoulder to shoulder in the cab of his Ford Pickup truck, admiring the grace and wonder of this delightful prairie bird as if we had known each other our whole lives.


Photo credit:  Athena Alexander


64 thoughts on “Lark Bunting

  1. The Lark Bunting is a handsome bird. Thanks for sharing the sound attachment. Beautiful write up today. I imagined another mystery coming taking place on the Colorado prairie. Happy Day.

  2. I just love hearing about your adventures. What a wonderful thing to be able to spend time in this beautiful landscape with this beautiful bird. And such a sweet call! Thanks for sharing this. I really enjoyed it. ~Rita

  3. Dear Jet, Thank you so much for sharing this informative post 🙂

    It really feels good to read about the birds and other wildlife in North America, especially because I just finished reading ‘The Silent Spring’ by Rachael Carson…

    It’s one great read and I am sure the ripples are still not settled with the publication of this book …

    • Thanks so much, Sreejith, I am glad you enjoyed the post. And how wonderful to come across the post after reading Silent Spring. Rachel Carson was a true visionary and we are so fortunate for her strength and courage in writing it. I think it’s probably time for me to read it again — thanks for the reminder of her greatness. 😀 😀

  4. Jet! So nice the link to the sound :), thanks for that. It makes me think of big brown geese who come here, or better, Came, here only during summer. but as it also gets warmer in the Netherlands a lot are not returning home …. their instinct tels them to stay.
    Nice post

  5. I was just about to log out when the shot of the little beautiful birdie arrived.
    He looks so magnificent on his lofty natural throne dear Jet!For a terrific moment and while listening to his penetrating courtship whistled phrases and warblings,I thought it was next to me.Btw,thanks for the link.Lovely expansive view over the grassy land of the ranch and beautiful the moments you spent with Paul in his paradise!Best wishes for a wonderful day dear friend 🙂 xxx

    • Oh yay — so glad to have caught you, Doda, before you logged out! I’m glad you enjoyed the post and you summed it up perfectly as “the moments you spent with Paul in his paradise.” We were so lucky he chose to share those moments with us, and I am lucky to be able to share them with you. Thanks so much, dear Doda. 😀 😀

    • There are so many sparrows in this world, but I must say the lark bunting is one of my favorite sparrows. And what a delight to see the male in breeding plumage. I am glad you enjoyed it, Andrea — and appreciate your visit. 😀

  6. Talk about a timely post. I was getting ready to search you’re blog about your visit to the grasslands. Because of you, I’ll be stopping by there sometime late next week. We’re in the Black Hills right now and will travel through Nebraska starting Tuesday and ending up at Sterling State Park. Any recommendations or tidbits on Pawnee or the area are appreciated 🙂

    • I am totally honored, Ingrid, to have inspired you and your husband to pass through Pawnee. Since you’re RVing, you’re probably not interested in the West Pawnee Ranch B&B, but I highly recommend it and in case you’re not RVing one day, here’s their link: There is an auto tour through Pawnee that is wonderful, here’s the link:!ut/p/c4/04_SB8K8xLLM9MSSzPy8xBz9CP0os3gDfxMDT8MwRydLA1cj72BTJw8jAwjQL8h2VAQAzHJMsQ!!/?ss=110210&ttype=recarea&recid=32186&actid=105&navtype=BROWSEBYSUBJECT&position=BROWSEBYSUBJECT&navid=110000000000000&pnavid=&cid=null&pname=Pawnee+National+Grassland+%28North+of+Greeley%2C+CO%29+-+Pawnee+Birding+Tour (What a long link!) It is a US Forest Service auto tour and well-maintained. We spent an entire afternoon here and it was great. Warning though: it’s very isolated, so have plenty of gas, food, and water when you come here. The link has a map and bird list too. Greeley is a nearby town, and cute, but very very small. You won’t be far from Cheyenne WY, and it is definitely worth time to visit. They have the WY state capitol bldg here, and it is a memorable capitol because WY is the first gov’t in the world to grant the vote to women. There’s also a giant cowboy boot made of license plates near the capitol bldg that I still think of when I remember Cheyenne. Other than the rodeo which only happens in June, those were the highlights for that area. Ft. Collins is a nice town, too, 1-2 hrs. W of Pawnee, with lots of parks. Enjoy! Enjoy! 😀 😀

      • Thank you so much Jet. Unfortunately on the 13th we have to be in Denver. So our side trip to RV in Sterling State Park and visit the Pawnee Grasslands is the best I can schedule right now. We spent 25 years living in southern Colorado but never explored the northeast or Pawnee. Daughter graduated from CSU Fort Collins. Appreciate the link and info very much 🙂

    • I agree Gunta. And often when I’m in nature I don’t spend much time chatting with others, because I’m usually chasing birds or listening to calls. So what a thrill it is to enjoy that common thread on the internet. Thanks so much for your frequent visits — they are much appreciated. 😀

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed the lark bunting post and took the time to listen to the melody, too, Nan. Thank you so much for all your visits and comments every single week – it is very much appreciated. 😀

  7. The prairies are amazing – I once lived in Kansas City – nine month tornado season, summers to swelter through and ice storms in the winter but still a fascinating area of the world.

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