WatchList Species Account for Lark Bunting
(Calamospiza melanocorys)


Qualifies for the list as a Declining Yellow List Species


Lark Bunting by Bill Schmoker

Photo: Bill Schmoker

A breeding endemic of the North American short-grass and mixed-grass prairies of the central U.S. and Canada, Lark Buntings winter in Texas and Oklahoma west to Arizona and throughout the high plateau of northern Mexico, where they gather in large flocks that search for places providing a good winter food supply. Winter habitat includes agricultural fields where it feeds on waste grain and weed seeds but also frequents cattle feed lots.


During breeding it nests in dispersed colonies, where it requires grassland with some shrub cover. At that season it is nomadic in response to annual fluctuations in levels of precipitation and the consequent influence on habitat conditions. At this time of year it feeds on insect prey, which makes up some 60% of its food during breeding, with seeds making up the rest. Its primary insect food is grasshoppers.


Use of the pesticide diazinon to control grasshoppers produced serious declines in the bird on a test plot in Wyoming. Predation at stock tanks by domestic cats can be high. Christmas Bird Counts and Breeding Bird Surveys indicate a downward trend in its population size, although the bird’s nomadic nature means these data may not accurately represent the true situation.