Backyard Birds

Lark Sparrows

The Lark Sparrow, Chondestes grammacus, is a fairly large sparrow. It is the only member of the genus Chondestes.

Distribution / Range:

This passerine bird breeds in southern Canada, much of the USA, and northern Mexico. It is much less common in the east, where its range is contracting. The populations in Mexico and adjacent USA states are resident, but other birds are migratory, wintering in the southern United States, Mexico and south to Guatemala.

It is a very common vagrant to western Europe, with two accepted records in Great Britain in 1981 and 1991.

They form flocks on migration or in winter.


Lark Sparrow is distinctive. Adults have a typically sparrow-like dark-streaked brown back, and white underparts except for a dark central spot. The cheeks and crown sides are chestnut, with white eyebrow and crown stripes. The dark tail’s corners are also white.

Young Lark Sparrows are duller, and the underparts are streaked.

Nesting / Breeding:

The breeding habitat is a variety of open habitats including grasslands and cultivation. Lark Sparrows nest on the ground, laying 3-6 eggs in a grass cup nest sheltered by a clump of grass or other vegetation. The eggs are white with black scrawling.

Diet / Feeding:

These birds forage on the ground or in low bushes. They mainly eat seeds, but insects, including grasshoppers are also eaten in the breeding season.

Call / Vocalization:

The song is two clear notes followed by a mixture of buzzes and trills. The flight call is a thin sit.

Members of the Emberizidae Family
(Please also see: Juncos and Towhees)


Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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