Highly gregarious in the winter months, the Lark Bunting also tends to nest in loose aggregations. Nests are placed on the ground in the shade of a plant, and Lark Buntings are aggressive defenders of their nest.
Lark Bunting nests are seldom parasitized by Brown-headed Cowbirds, and when it does occur the buntings sometimes eject the eggs or abandon the nest to start again. Seasonal unpredictability of rainfall and temperature leads to fluctuations of local populations from one year to the next.
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Description of the Lark Bunting
The Lark Bunting is sexually dimorphic, but both sexes have a thick, grayish to bluish bill and a large, white patch on each wing.
Breeding males are all black, except for the extensive white in the wings and white tips to the tail feathers. Length: 7 in. Wingspan: 10 in.
Females are brownish above and whitish below with a streaked breast.
Females, juveniles and winter males are similar in appearance.
Seasonal change in appearance
Fall males resemble females but are darker.
Juveniles are similar to adult females.
Lark Buntings inhabit shortgrass prairies and sagebrush plains.
Lark Buntings eat insects and seeds.
Lark Buntings forage on the ground, often in flocks during migration and winter.
Lark Buntings breed across much of the interior western U.S. They winter across the southwestern U.S. and Mexico. The population has declined in recent decades.
Bent Life History
Visit the Bent Life History for extensive additional information on the Lark Bunting.
With few tall perches in its shortgrass prairie habitat, Lark Buntings give a flight song from within their territories.
Fall migration begins for some birds as early as July.
Lark Bunting is the state bird of Colorado.
The song consists of a series of whistled notes and rattles. A soft “hew” call is given as well.
- Females and immatures resemble some sparrows, though the white wing patches and thick bill help clinch the identification.Savannah Sparrows
Savannah Sparrows have thinner bills and lack large white wing bar.
The Lark Bunting’s nest is a cup of grasses and is lined with finer materials. It is placed on the ground, often under overhanging vegetation.
Number: Usually lay 4-5 eggs.
Color: Light blue.
Incubation and fledging:
The young hatch at about 11-12 days, and fledge at about 8-9 days, though remaining dependent on the adults for some time.
Bent Life History of the Lark Bunting
Published by the Smithsonian Institution between the 1920s and the 1950s, the Bent life history series of monographs provide an often colorful description of the birds of North America. Arthur Cleveland Bent was the lead author for the series. The Bent series is a great resource and often includes quotes from early American Ornithologists, including Audubon, Townsend, Wilson, Sutton and many others.
Bent Life History for the Lark Bunting – the common name and sub-species reflect the nomenclature in use at the time the description was written.
CALAMOSPIZA MELANOCORYS Stejneger
HABITSContributed by HENRY E. BAUMGARTEN
The lark bunting was first reported by Townsend who, in the company of Nuttall, discovered it on May 24, 1837, shortly after crossing the north branch of the Platte River in central Nebraska. Nuttall regarded the lark bunting as a close relative of the bobolink and assigned it to the same genus. Indeed, there is considerable resemblance between the two birds in general appearance and behavior, and many less experienced observers in some parts of the lark bunting’s breeding range call it “bobolink.” Other names that have been used to describe this species are: white winged blackbird, white-winged bunting, and buffalo-bird.
Roberts (1936) has expanded Couch’s (1874) earlier observations of the specialized character of the lark bunting, “pointing out that in some ways it is like a Lark, has the bill of a Grosbeak, the seasonal plumage changes of the Bobolink, notes and manner of singing like the Yellow-breasted Chat, gregarious habits of the Blackbirds,” and a nest and eggs “almost indistinguishable from those of the Dickcissel, with which bird it is somewhat akin in its nomadic habits.” These characteristics do render the lark bunting unique and endear it to those with whom it spends the late spring and summer.
The lark bunting breeds in Transition and Upper Sonoran Zones from southern Alberta, southern Saskatchewan, and southwestern Manitoba, south to northwestern Texas and New Mexico, east to Nebraska and western Minnesota. Unfortunately during the past 50 years the lark bunting has all but abandoned the eastern and northeastern portions of its breeding range. Thus, Roberts (1936) wrote that “it was a keen disappointment to the bird-students of the state that the breaking up of the native prairie caused it to leave after it had become well established for so many years over a wide area and was apparently on the way toward occupying all the prairie region of Minnesota.” Similarly, William Youngworth (MS.) has concluded “after nearly 40 years of field work in the area under discussion, that the Lark Bunting has deserted Iowa and Minnesota in the main as a nesting bird. A stray pair now and then nests in northwestern Iowa, but the main nesting area has now been pushed back roughly from a line west of Lincoln, Nebr., through Norfolk, Nebr., to Yankton, S. Dak., to about Sisseton, S. Dak. There still would be a few nesting on this line and it would not be improbable east of the line.”
Although the lark bunting has disappeared from parts of its breeding range, its propensity to wander carries it far from its usual haunts in migration. It is not at all unusual for the lark bunting to appear, sometimes in goodly numbers, in southern California in late winter or spring, or to visit nearby Nevada and Utah, but its occasional appearance in Oregon, Ohio, Virginia, Massachusetts, Quebec, and New Brunswick represent a rare ornithogical reward for the alert observers who have recorded it so far from home.
In addition to somewhat irregular movements during migration, the lark bunting shows some tendency to fluctuate greatly in abundance in given localities from year to year. The species apparently shows no great attachment for any particular nesting grounds, and may be abundant one year in a given area and uncommon the next. Tout (1902) has suggested that the lark bunting is more abundant in dry than in wet years. Its variation in numbers from year to year has led many local people to associate good crop years and even the best planting times with the abundance of lark buntings. Thus, Gerbracht (1944) writes of the species in North Dakota:
Their arrival means settled warm weather, and everything subject to frost may be planted safely. * * * We get our corn ground ready, and then wait for the buntings to appear * * ~. And it always proves to be the pick of the season, better than either earlier or later.
The buntings seem to know whether the season will be propitious or otherwise. If they arrive in great numbers and every fence and weed stalk is hanging full of them, and the air from the first streak of daylight until after dark is full of their song, and they immediately start housekeeping, we know that they know a good season is ahead, and there will be plenty of everything for both us and them. But if their numbers are scanty and they are mute and uneasy, apparently unsatisfied with the prospects and disappear in a few days, we know the season will be poor and the harvest meager.
In “good” years the lark buntings are indeed abundant. Pettingill and Dana (1943) estimated that, in driving the 275 miles from Brooking, S. Dak., to the edge of the Badlands on June 2 and 3, they saw roughly 4,125 lark buntings on or within the fence paralleling the road.
Spring: From its winter home in northern Mexico, and less commonly in southern Texas, southern New Mexico, and southern Arizona, the lark bunting begins its northward migration in early March. However, it wends its way northward so slowly that it does not reach the northern limit of its breeding range, southern Canada from southern Alberta east to southwestern Manitoba, until the first of June. W. W. Cooke (in Bailey, 1928) has described its passage through New Mexico as follows:
“In the spring of 1904 it arrived at Rinconada on April 23 * * * and this is probably not far from an average date for northern New Mexico. * * * The larger part have passed across the State by the middle of May, but a flock of about thirty birds was seen at. Shiprock as late as June 2, 1907 * * ~. The fact that they were still in a flock would seem to indicate that they were late migrants, rather than local breeders.”
By late March the vanguard reaches southwestern Kansas, although the main body of migrants does not appear there until mid-April (R. and L. Graber, 1951). About 2 weeks later lark buntings penetrate to the eastern plains of Colorado. The following charming account of the species’ appearance on the Colorado prairies was written by Langdon (1933):
May adorns the prairies and hills with flowers and summons her choralists to sing the joy of living. Heeding her call, as they have heeded it from time immemorial, the Lark Buntings begin to arrive in Colorado during the first week of the Month of Flowers. The male is robed in hiack and white, but, infrequently, his black coat is overcast with slaty gray, as if he had put on a silken duster. * * * And what of the subject of this Dandy’s chivalrous attentions. If we call the coat of the Western Lark Sparrow beautiful, we shall be obliged to say, as alas we too often cannot truthfully say of the feminine-in-feathers, Lady Lark Bunting wears a beautiful gown. Indeed, were it not for the light buff where her spouse wears white, and for her “grosbeak”, it would take close scrutiny to distinguish her from the Western Lark Sparrow, often seen in the Lark Bunting company during migration. Lady Bunting’s large wing-patch, so evident in flight, is, however, a certain badge of identity.
Some authorities say the males precede the females in the spring by about a week, but I do not remember seeing a segregated flock. I have seen a lone scout travel in advance of the flocks a few days. In my experience, the Lark Buntings return, singing joyously, in choruses of various numbers, from a few to two or three hundred individuals, the average flock numbering perhaps twenty to forty.
On the average the lark bunting appears in central and western Nebraska during the first week of May and in South Dakota and eastern Montana a week later. Cameron (1908), in describing the status of the species in Custer and Dawson counties in Montana, stated that the lark bunting arrives “about the second week in May. It is invariably called Bobolink and confused with that bird. The males precede the females by about five days and, when all have arrived, flying hosts are seen strung. out for about a quarter of a mile. * * * Although essentially prairie birds, the flocks rest in the trees when migrating through pine hills.” Continuing their push northward, the most venturesome of the migrants reach their northernmost breeding grounds in southern Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta by the last. week in May.
Courtship: We note the courtship of the lark bunting chiefly in the approximately 2-week period between their arrival in flocks and their gradual dispersal to the nesting areas. Langdon (1933) describes courtship among lark buntings in Colorado as follows: “Courtship, delightful to behold, takes place in the flocks. Females seem receptive as the males, with fluffed feathers and uplifted crowns, sing to them individually during the brief pauses in the busy journeyings. Soon after this home-coming jollity has spent itself, the flocks break up into pairs and homestead the plains and plateaus to an elevation of almost 9000 ft. above sea level.”
It seems probable that the spectacular flight song of the lark bunting is an important part of the courtship performance, although, in gen~ral, this type of singing is continued well past the courtship period, perhaps to about the middle of July. During courtship the male sings almost continuously, sometimes perched on fence posts or tall weeds, but more commonly on the wing. For a description of this striking flight, see Behavior.
Published evidence indicates that the lark bunting does not attempt strongly to establish or maintain territories. Thus, Whittle (1922) reports that after dispersal of the larger flocks, the lark buntings nested in colonies in which five or six nests were “so close together that the males often sang from a series of fence posts at the same time.” A. A. Saunders (MS.) has pointed out that “if there were territories, the birds crossed over each other’s frequently while singing, but it may have been that when they alighted they did so only in their own territories.” This tolerance of other buntings seems to be extended to other prairie species as well. Thus, Langdon (1933) writes: “Our Troubadour of the Plains is gentle of manner and pleasingly sociable among his fellows. He lives a beautiful family and community life. Amiability is a characteristic trait. I have yet to see him quarrel with the Desert Horned Lark or the McCown Longspur much less with one of his own kind, even when the plains are populated with many pairs of all three birds.”
Bailey and Niedrach (1938) report that the lark bunting commonly nests with chestnut-collared longspurs, McCown’s longspurs, desert horned larks, and mountain plovers as near neighbors.
Nesting: The nest of the lark bunting typically is a rather simple affair, usually laid in a depression in the ground and made of grasses, slender weed stems, and fine roots, often lined with finer material of the same sort, plant down, or hair. It is very similar to the nest of the dickcissel. A. D. Du Bois (MS.) described a nest found in Teton County, Mont., which was situated “on the ground, in the grass, on the slope of a coulee bank.” It was “sunk almost flush with the surface of the ground” and was “composed of weed and grass stems an(l grass leaves.” The nest was “lined with grass in a more or less shredded condition. A flat outer rim, just above ground, was cornpose(l of coarse weed stems.” Internal measurements of the nest were: diameter, 2.75 inches; depth, 1.75 inches. He desciibes a second nest he found “in the flat bottom area of the coulee, well concealed by thick grass which surrounded it. One long, thick tuft of gre en grass leaned over it. The nest rim was perhaps an inch above ground, in matted dry grass.” The nest was “constructed of dried grass stems and blades, lined with dried grass, some fine rootlets, and a few hairs.”
Langdon (1933) published several photographs of male and female lark buntings as well as their young at the nest and describes the typical nest in the following terms:
“The nest is usually sunken flush with the ground, although sometimes it is slightly elevated. It is made of grasses and fine roots and lined with fine grasses, plant down, or hair. Sometimes it is sheltered by prairie plants and almost always difficult to find. To avoid revealing its location, the birds will remain away from the nest for long periods of time.”
The nest is often located near or is hidden by some species of plant or plant debris. Thus, Whittle (1922) reports that lark buntings in the Missouri valley of Montana often selected “nesting sites in weedy tracts, under thick cover of tumble weed (Cycloloma atriplicicolium) accumulated by the wind against some obstruction, usually a wire fence, or even under a single plant of this species over-turned on the prairie.” One such nest was “built entirely of grass and, as is customary, was placed on the ground with its rim flush with the surface, the inside diameter being two and one-quarter inches, and the depth the same.” Benckeser (1957) reported finding a nest in pasture lands north of Brule, Nebr., that was constructed among prickly pear cactus foliage. Quillin (1935) found that lark buntings nesting near El Dorado, Tex., had built two nests in shallow hollows “in the center of an open clump of acacia a few inches high growing in a level meadow that was dotted with similar bushes.” Sclater (1912) reports a nest found near Greeley, Cob., “in a slight hollow in the ground, in a freshly cut alfalfa field, and was made up of alfalfa stems and leaves.” Reed (1904) noted that eggs had been collected from a nest in a cornfield at the base of a stalk. Cary (1902) observed that out of a dozen nests examined “all but one were hidden under a sage brush. The exception was a nest which the birds had built right in the middle of a thick bunch of cactus.”
Cameron (1908) found that in Dawson and Custer counties in Montana nests were more plentiful in fenced pastures than elsewhere and suggests that this observation is explained by the bird’s fondness for perching on the wires.
Various observers have encountered greater or lesser difficulties in attempting to locate the nest of the lark bunting, although perhaps the majority report no special trouble. A typical report of the difficulties occasionally encountered is that of Keyser (1902):
At first only male buntings were seen. Surely, I thought, there must be females in the neighborhood, for when male birds are singing so lustily about a place, their spouses are usually sitting quietly on nests somewhere in bush or tree or grass. I hunted long for a nest, trudging about over the meadow, examining many a grass-tuft and weed-clump, hoping to flush a female and discover her secret; but my quest was vain. It is strange how difficult it is to find nests in Colorado, either on the plains or in the mountains. The birds seem to be adept in the fine arts of concealment and secret-keeping. Presently several females were seen flying off over the fields and returning, obviously to feed thcir young. There was now some colorable prospect of finding a nest. A mother bird appeared with a worm in her bill, and you may rely upon it I did not permit her to slip from my sight until I saw her drop to the ground, hop about stealthily for a few moments, then disappear, and presently fly up minus the worm. Scarcely daring to breathe, I followed a direct course to the weed-clump from which she had risen. And there was a nest, sure enough: my first lark bunting’s: set in a shallow pit of the ground, prettily concealed and partly roofed over by the flat and spreading weed-stalk. Four half-fledged youngsters lay panting in the little cradle * * ‘~’~ ~ stepped hack a short distance and watched the mother bird returning with another mouthful of “goodies”, and feeding her bantlings four. She was not very shy, and simply uttered a fine chirp when I went too close to her nestlings, while her gallant consort did not even chirp, but tried to divert my attention by repeatedly curveting in the air and singing his choicest measures.
On the other hand, Cameron (1908) wrote that he observed five nests in a small pasture while merely riding through it on horseback. Similarly, Saunders (1921) reports that the lark bunting was so abundant in the Gallatin Valley of Montana that many people not acquainted with birds described the species to him, “telling how common it was, and how easily nests could be found.”
Eggs: The lark bunting lays from three to six eggs to a set, usually four or five, rarely seven. Sometimes two broods are raised in a season. The eggs are ovate, approaching short-ovate, in shape. Their color is a light greenish-blue, rarely lightly sprinkled with reddishbrown spots. The measurements of 50 eggs average 21.9 by 16.8 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 24.1 by 17.0, 21.8 by 18.0, 19.1 by 16.3, and 21.8 by 13.7 millimeters.
Young: The period of incubation for the lark bunting is given by Cameron (1908) as about 12 days. Cameron also states that the male shares the incubation duties with his mate. A few other reports in the literature tend to support this. Benckeser (1955) is said to have flushed a male lark bunting from a nest containing six eggs near Brule, Nebr., and Gary (1902) reports that from seven nests he examined in Nebraska the male bird was flushed from five. Most other observers agree with Roberts (1936) who reports that: “The male was never discovered assisting in incubation but did take part in the care of the young and was always close by to join the female in protesting any intrusion upon the nest.” As Langdon (1933) describes it: “The less-conspicuous female does all the incubating. The male makes his family glad they are alive, not only by singing to them constantly but also by helping feed the dark bluish nestlings.”
Cameron (1908) gives the following description of the development of young lark buntings in Montana: “The usual number of five eggs is laid by June 1 * * *~ The young are fledged by July 1, and, as soon as they can fly weakly (about the middle of the month), sit on the wires with their parents which feed them on grasshoppers.”
Plumages: Roberts (1936) has provided the best published description of the striking changes in plumage of the male lark bunting:
Juvenal plumage: Resembles the female hut paler above, because of lighter feather edgings causing a scaled effect as in the young horned lark; the markings below are more diffuse; the characteristic wing-patches are present and will serve to identify the bird; the lower mandible is yellowish, upper as in adult. The first prenuptial molt [April] produces the black and white breeding male, except the brown inner primaries, secondaries, and coverts, as described [below], and in some hirds various patches of gray and huffy feathers are retained from the winter plumage.
Second-year breeding: Secondaries, and all but four outer (black) primaries and their coverts, brown, retained from the juvenal (winter?) plumage; central pair of tail-feathers brown, others black not so pure ahove.
Fall and winter adult: At a complete postnuptial molt, in late July and August, the male beoomes somewhat like the female, but the wing-patches are brighter buff, the head and hack more rusty, and the feathers of the abdomen are black beneath the light edgings.
Adult breeding male: Generai color black, above grayish or faintly brownish in some specimens; middle and lesser wing-coverts white, forming a large white patch in wing; primaries black, brownish at tips; secondaries tipped with white, and tertiaries margined with white; tail brownish-black, all but middle pair of feathers with terminal white spots on inner web; under tail-coverts tipped with white. Bill bluish-horn color, paler below; leg brownish, darker on feet; iris hazel.
Adult breeding female: Very different from breeding male. Above and on sides of head and neck pale grayish-brown streaked with dusky, more sparsely on rump and upper tail-coverts; a light line back of eye and a narrow light eyering; below white, streaked with dusky except on throat and belly; some of the feathers on upper abdomen may have concealed blackish centers; markings on breast may coalesce too from a central dark spot, as in Song Sparrow; a dark stripe on either side of throat, bordered above by dull white; wings brown, the middle and greater coverts dark centrally, margined widely with dull white or light buff, to form an interrupted wing-patch, less conspicuous than in the male; tertiaries dark, tipped and margined with dull white and huffy; tail as in male, with addition of light edgings, especially on middle pair of feathers. Bill, legs, and feet lighter than in male.
Chapman (1914) describes the sequences of plumages as follows:
The nestling male is buffy white, faintly streaked below; above the feathers are blackish margined with buffy, producing a somewhat scaled appearance. At the postjuvenal molt the tail and wing-quills are retained, the rest of the plumage molted. The new plumage (first winter) resembles that of the female but the wings and tail are blacker and there is more black on the underparts, particularly on the throat.
The breeding or nuptial plumage is gained by a spring or prenuptial molt, in which, as in the postiuvenal or first fall molt, the tail and wing-quills are retamed. The body plumage, wing coverts and tertials are shed and replaced by the black-and-white breeding-dress. Birds in their first nuptial plumage may now be distinguished from fully mature birds by their browner wings and tail and, often, less intensely black body feathers.
At the post nuptial or fall molt, which, as usual, is complete, the bird assumes a costume somewhat like that of the first winter, but the tail and wing-quills are now fully black and there is more black on the underparts.
Albino lark buntings apparently are not common, but a few have been observed, and at least one specimen has been collected.
Food: Although the feeding habits of the lark bunting have not been studied as systematically as one might expect for so prominent and abundant a species, it is clear that the food in summer consists predominantly of insects together with a considerably lesser quantity of seeds of useless plants. The young are fed almost exclusively on insects. Langdon (1933) summarizes data in the files of the Bureau of Biological Survey as follows: “An examination of thirty-six stomachs, mostly collected in July and August, revealed 79.08 per cent animal matter and 20.92 per cent vegetable matter in the bird’s total diet. The percentages of insects were: Grasshopper, 62.44; beetle, with weevils predominating, 11.33; true bugs (Hemiptera), 2.67; Hymenoptera (mainly wild bees and ants), 2.08; and miscellaneous (flies, moth larvae, etc.), 0.56. Seeds eaten were: Grasses, 7.47 per cent (2.36 per cent of these were cultivated grain seeds, probably mainly waste material). The remaining 13: 45 per cent of the total diet was made up of seeds of pigweed, knotweed, gromwell, prickly poppy, verbena, goosefoot, etc.”
Numerous less detailed observations from the field tend to substantiate these data. Thus, Knowlton (1947) described the stomach contents of a lark bunting collected among the sagebrush and rabbitbrush fence rows in central Utah in 1941 as containing “1 fly, 1 beetle, and 1 harvester ant, besides insect fragments. Also present was a spider, 65 seeds, mostly of weeds, and two Russian thistle plant fragments.” The stomach contents of a second specimen collected at about the same time consisted of: “2 beetles (1 a weevil), 3 Hymenoptera, 2 of which were ants. * * * 5 kernels of wheat, 1 sunflower seed, 7 other weed seeds and a few plant fragments.”
May (in Forbush, 1929) describes an accidental visitor to Marchvile, Mass., June 9, 1907, as feeding “by the roadside with a small flock of House Sparrows. * * * The bird was feeding avidly upon the seeds of wayside dandelions, which it procured by jumping up from the ground and nipping, with its powerful beak, through the base of the ripening flower heads, each time alighting with a beakful of white pappus.” Other weed seeds eaten by this species are those of the smartweed and amaranth.
Considerable evidence shows that when grasshoppers are available, this insect becomes the bird’s favorite food. Thus, Kalmbach (1914) reported that near Koebler Junction, N. Mex., about 78 percent of its ammal food was formed of grasshoppers, and Aughey (1878) stated that, out of nine specimens collected in southern Nebraska, seven had grasshoppers in their stomachs, the lowest number being 11 and the highest 19. R. L. Shotwell (1930) says of the bird foes of the grasshopper: “The most important predatory enemies of this insect in Montana are the Lark Bunting (Calamospiza melanocorys), Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta), Sparrow Hawk (Falco sparveriu.s~), Sage Hen (Centrocercu.s urophasianus), Sharp-tailed Grouse (Pedioecetes phasianellus), and domestic turkeys and chickens. Of these the most important is the Lark Bunting, which is very abundant on the prairie lands. Swarms of grasshoppers can often be located by the presence of large numbers of these buntings.” This is supported by the observations of Welch (1936), who reported that on “a trip through the wheat country near Broadview [Mont.] on August 4, there were encountered hordes of grasshoppers. The country roads were literally covered with these insects. Thousands of Lark Buntings and Desert Horned Larks were found in this territory, evidently attracted by the grasshoppers.”
Behavior: Probably the most outstanding behavioral characteristic of the lark buntings is their gregariousness. Except when on their nesting grounds, lark buntings live largely in flocks of considerable size. W. F. Rapp, Jr., tells me that for a short period of time after their arrival in western Nebraska the males and females remain in segregated flocks before their gradual dispersal to the nesting areas.
Apparently even when a lone lark bunting is separated from others of his kind, he seeks the company of other birds. Thus, F. M. and A. M. Baumgartuer (1950) report that a lone female lark bunting appeared at their banding station at various times from Feb. 5 to Apr. 9,1949, in the company of a flock of Harris’s sparrows. The flock disappeared at about the same time as the bunting’s final appearance. They report, further, that although “very similar to the Harris’s Sparrows in coloring, the bunting could always be distinguished from a distance by its characteristic behavior. At our approach to the trap the Harris’s Sparrows usually flew up, flitting from side to side. The bunting always dove down into the farthest corner, and continued to push and flutter in one spot until released.” The gregarious character is especially prominent on the lark bunting’s wintering grounds in northern Mexico. Thus Baird, Brewer, and Ridgway (1874b) report that “Dr. Kennerly, who met with these birds both in Sonora and Espia, on the Mexican Boundary Survey, states that he observed them in the valley of the river early in the morning, in very large flocks. During the greater part of the day they feed on the hills among the bushes. When on the wing they keep very close together, so that a single discharge of shot would sometimes bring down twenty or thirty. Mr. J. H. Clark, on the same survey, also states that he sometimes found them occurring in flocks of hundreds. The greatest numbers were seen near Presidio del Norte. Great varieties of plumage were observed in the same flock. The food seemed to be seeds ahnost exclusively. They were very simultaneous in all their movements. Stragglers were never observed remaining behind after the flock had started. They are, he states, the most absolutely gregarious birds he has ever met with.”
As characteristic of the lark bunting as its gregariousness is the spectacular song or nuptial flight of the males over their nesting grounds or when courting their mates. Whittle (1922) describes these flights as follows:
* * * in every direction, first here and then there, often in a dozen places at once, Lark Buntings shot into the air, usually from the ground, as though propelled from guns, pouring out the most infectious and passionate song, perhaps, sung by any bird in the United States. * * * there were at least a hundred singing males, and with them there were, no doubt, a similar number of silent and inconspicuous females feeding on the ground. If the females were impressed by the singing, or were even aware of it, their behavior did not indicate it.
In one weedy field I counted twenty singing males. They sing while resting on the ground, on weeds, or on fence posts, but commonly the song begins as the bird leaves the ground, moving directly upward at an angle of about 500 to a height of ten to thirty feet and occasionally higher. The descent is slower, usually indirect and more gradual, the song culminating as the bird comes to rest on the ground or on a fence post. * * * Very frequently these flights, which are doubtless courtship performances, are accompanied by unusual wing motions. Sometimes the wings are set at the apex of the flight and are often upturned over the back in an acute V, after the habit of MeCown Longspurs, with which the Lark Buntings are often associated during such exhibitions, the wings being slowly lowered as they glide or float to the ground. At other times, in place of setting the wings, the birds fly downward, the wing strokes not being perfectly synchronized, giving the birds a rocking motion. This alternation of wing strokes, which is only practised during flight singing, is often at a maximum, namely, when one wing is at the top of its describing arc and the other is at the bottom of its arc. * * *
F. H. Allen has advanced the theory that the ecstatic mating song is an elaborated older song, one which has been evolved from the perch song. Nevertheless, flight songs often contain even more primitive sounds, such as call notes, and it is interesting to note that alternate wing motions in birds, which is a survival of the alternate leg motion of tbeir reptilian ancestors, is still occasionally practised by Lark Buntings during their flight singing.
Zimmer (1913) described the unusual song-flight of the lark bunting in the following terms: “When the birds sings thus in flight it rises regularly and directly into the air with rapid wing beats until, at the summit of its ascent, it pauses and begins to descend by a series of awkward, jerky motions of its set, extended wings, the motion being more like that of a butterfly than of a bird.”
Although the song-flight of the lark bunting has been likened to that of the bobolink, Keyser (1902) has pointed out that: a striking difference between his intermittent song-flights and those of the bobolink is to be noted. The latter usually rises in the air, soars around in a curve, and returns to the perch from which he started, or to one near by, describing something of an ellipse. The lark bunting generally rises obliquely to a certain point, then descends at about the same angle to another perch opposite the starting-point, describing what might be called the upper sides of an isosceles triangle, the base being a line near the ground, connecting the perch from which he rose and the one on which he alighted. I do not mean to say that our bunting never circles, but simply that such is not his ordinary habit, while sweeping in a circle or ellipse is the favorite pastime of the eastern bobolink. The ascent of neither bird is very high. They are far from deserving the name of skylarks.
Several authors have observed that the lark bunting appears to enjoy flying and singing in the face of winds of sufficient force to cause other birds to take cover. Thus, J. A. Allen (quoted in Coues, 1874) wrote that the lark bunting “is a very strong flier, and seems to delight in the strongest gales, singing more at such times than in comparatively quiet weather.” Langdon (1933) says: “Several times I have beard him in the sunlit, sparkling rain. He is vocal when other birds seek shelter. Being strong of wing, he flies up to greet with song the cooling breeze or the gale that brings the storm. Sometimes he flies almost vertically up the wind, turns, and sails rapidly down the wind, bubbling with glee.”
Baird, Brewer, and Ridgway (1874b) quote Cones as writing that the “ordinary flight of this species is altogether of a different character, being a low gliding motion, overtopping the weeds and bushes.”
An interesting pattern of behavior was noted by Youngworth (1930), who observed hundreds of lark buntings seeking shade from the heat of the afternoon sun. Thus, during the “intense heat of the afternoon numerous lark buntings were found perching on barbed wire fences. The birds were, however, sitting close to the posts and on the side opposite to the sun.”
Although some observers have reported that the lark bunting is shy and difficult to approach, this appears to be more characteristic of the bird on its wintering grounds than on its breeding grounds. Thus, Coues (quoted in Baird, Brewer, and Ridgway, 1874b) wrote that the lark buntings “were very heedless of approach, and any number could have been destroyed.” Similarly, Langdon (1933) says that in his experience the lark bunting is friendly but not intimate with man, and that he has had the bird sit on his car while he was in it. On the other hand, Allen (1872) found the lark bunting to be exceeding shy and difficult to collect during the breeding season.
In general during the spring migration and breeding season, when approached by a human being, the lark bunt.ing rises up from the prairie and bursts into song. The same response is elicted by ~the approach of automobiles on the highway or railway trains. However, on its wintering grounds the lark bunting is a less amiable and sociable bird. Thus Dille (1935) writes: “No bird has yet fooled me so completely as did the winter flocks of this old friend of my Colorado and Nebraska experience. If there is one bird on its northern nesting ground that I have known longer than any other it is the Lark Bunting. But what were these birds in this nervous, closely packed, quickly startling moving flock, acting just like a flock of wild scaled quail? There were no males of full colors in the bunch, which did not help my recognition. How they must tame down during their tedious journey northward, for when they arrive with us in Colorado and take location, they are very sociable, and full of song.”
These observations are in accord with those Coale (1894), who reported from the Tucson, Ariz., area that in the winter “these birds were on the ground in immense flocks, thousands I should judge, and were quite hard to approach. They kept running and flying over each other, always keeping well ahead of me.”
Voice: A. A. Saunders (MS.) has contributed the following study of this subject: “The lark bunting is commonly a flight singer. The bird flies up into the air, then wheels about and floats back to the ground, singing and circling around as it does so. In a way it resembles the song flights of longspurs, but the wings are not held at the same angle, and the longspur flight is straight and not circling.
“The song is a long mixture of series of short notes, two-note phrases or slurs. It is quite musical and pleasing, but of a peculiar quality that seemed to me indescribable. Consonant sounds are prominent. I wrote the phonetics of one song as follows: kazee kazee kazee kazee zizizizizi t~ kayeekayeekayeekayee trrrrrrrrrr tee t~ wewewewewe fur fur tur fur quit quit quit quit quit quit quit. This song lasted eight seconds, and varied in pitch from E” to B”. Other songs range as high as F~.
“These studies were all made in a single morning, June 12, 1951, in the vicinity of Crosby, N. Dak. Seven or eight male birds were singing in a shrubby pasture, and two or three birds would be in the air singing at almost any minute of the time.
“I recorded one quite musical call-note of two syllables, that I wrote: ‘Wheetwer.’ ” J. E. and N. J. Stillwell (1955) recorded the songs of two lark buntings, one near Hugo, Lincoln County, Cob. (June 13, 1954) and the second near Cimarron, Gray County, Kans. (June 14, 1954). They report that the birds sang fully as well from fence posts as when on the wing and they described the songs in the following terms:
Boadly, the songs of the two Lark Buntings we recorded on tape, and of others heard but not recorded, consisted of the random use of several distinct phrases, with considerable variation in both the musical quality and pitches of the several phrases. A phrase might consist of a trill, or a buzz, or one or two notes repeated three to ten times.
In all, we recorded 16 songs from the Lark Bunting near Hugo, and 10 from the Cimarron bird. The Hugo bird averaged three to four phrases per song, and the Cimarron bird averaged six to seven phrases per hong. For both birds we were able to recognize 11 different phrase types or patterns, aithcugh the repetitions of a given phrase-type were not always exactly identical.
The 11 phrase-types of these two Lark Buntings may be placed in four groups. Group A contains three types, Cardinal-like and gliding in pitch: (1) a singlenote Sweet, rising rapidly in pitch for about an octave, this note repeated four to eight times; (2) a slurred double-note c/icr-wheat, rising in pitch, usually repeated about three times; and (3) weeta, falling in pitch. Group B contains two types, chat: like and unmusical: (4) chug repeated three or four times; and (5) chut, repeated more rapidly, usually nine or ten times. Group C contains three types, trills or buzzes; (6) a low-pitched buzz; (7) a junco-like trill; and (8) a high-pitched, insect-like trill. Group D contains three types: (9) toot repeated four to twelve times, quality clear and piping; (10) churl less clear b.nd musical than type 9; and (11) chew, rather Cardinal-like, but not conspicuously gliding in pitch as in Group A. [For a description in tabular form of the use of these song types by the two males the reader is referred to the original article by the Stillwells.l With three exceptions, both birds began each song with Type 1 phrase. Seven of the 11 types (no. 1, 2, 4, 7, 8, 9, and 10) were used by both birds. Type 5 was used only by the Hugo bird; and Types 3, 6, and 11 were used only by the Cimarron bird. Type 4 was used eight times by the Cimarron bird as the second phrase in his songs; and Type 9 was used eight times by the Hugo bird as the second phrase in his songs.
A typical song of the Hugo Lark Bunting might be written: sweel, sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet: loot, toot, tool, toot, toot, tool: chug, chug, chug: tr-r: r: r-r-r: r.
A typical song of the Cimarron bird would be: sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet: chug, chug, chug, chug: tr-r-r: r-r-r: r: tool, bet, loot, loot, tool: buz: z-z: z: z: churl, churl, churl.
Zimmer (1913) describes the call note and song of the lark bunting as follows:
The call note of the Lark Buntings, a gentle “who-ce-ce”, with gradually rising inflection, was heard frequently, and when given by a flock in chorus as the birds rose from the ground before you or settled again a short distance away was most pleasing. The true song, which is given by the males, as I have heard it here [Thomas County, Nebr.] and on the high plains where the buntings breed abundantly, is, to me, suggestive of the notes of the Long-tailed Chat. In addition to the similarity of the notes the singing bird frequently performs in a manner that also calls to mind the same other feathered clown, and if the proceeding be seen at a di~tance and in such a light that the colors and markings of the bird are obscured, the illusion is all the more complete exeept that wonder may arise as to what a Chat is doing in the open hills. The song is composed of syllables or repetitions of syllables pieced together in a more or less regular fashion. Some of the notes may be expressed as “cheerp’: cheerp’: eheerp’: cheerp’–chee-ee-eece-ec-hir ‘: ta-hir’ ta-hir’ ta-who-oo-oo-oo-oo-yor’ da-yor’ da-hurt’: hurt’: hurt’: ee-ee-ee-ee-ee-ee: .” This is delivered most frequently by a bird on the wing, but it may be given from a perch on a fence post or weed stalk.
Keyser (1902) describes the song of the male lark bunting as follows:
* * * his voice has not the loud, metallic ring, nor his chanson the medley-like happy-go-lucky execution, that marks the musical performance of the bobolink; but his song is more mellow, rhythmic, themeike; for he has a distinct tune to sing, and sing it he will. In fine, his song is of a different order from that of the bobolink, and, therefore, the comparison need be carried no further.
As one of these minstrels sat on a flowering weed and gave himself up to a lyrical transport, I made careful notes, and now give the substance of my elaborate entries. The song, which is intermittent, opens with three prolonged notes running high in the scale, and is succeeded by a quaint, rattling trill of an indescribable character, not without musical effect, which is followed by three double-toned long notes quite different from the opening phrases; then the whole performance is closed by an exceedingly high and fine run like an insect’s hum: so fine, indeed, that the auditor must be at hand to notice it at all. Sometimes the latter half of the score, including the second triad of long notes, is repeated before the- soloist stops to take a breath. It will be seen that the regular song consists of four distinct phrases, two triads, and two trills. About one-third of the songs are opened in a little lower key than the rest, the remainder being correspondingly meliowed. The opening syllables, and, indeed, some other parts of the melody as well, are very like certain strains of the song-sparrow, both in execution and in quality of tone; and thus even the experienced ornithologist may sometimes be led astray. When the bunting sails into the air, he rehearses the song just described, only he is very likely to prolong it by repeating the various parts, though I think he seldom, if ever, throws them together in a hodge-podge. lie seems to follow a system in his recitals, varied as many of them are. As to his voice, it is of superb timbre.
Another characteristic noted was that the buntings do not throw back their heads while singing, after the manners of the sparrows, but stretch their necks forward, and at no time do they open their mouths widely. As a rule, or at least very often, when flying, they do not begin their songs until they have almost reached the apex of their triangle; then the song begins, and it continues over the angle and down the incline until another perch is settled upon.
Langdon (1933) has to say of the song: “This mellow, rhythmic tune has several, perhaps a half-dozen, distinct themes of about equal length which are sung one after the other, Canary-like until the bird alights or ceases to sing from some lowly perch. I have often seen three or four birds fly toward each other, mount together, pour out their hearts in friendly rivalry, then separate, each sailing and singing to his own territory. The Bunting’s song is highly inspiring whether sung solo or ensemble. Surely this prairie bird must be ranked as one of our very best feathered songsters.”
Attempts have been made to render the song in human words; however, such attempts usually give only an impression of the rhythm, not of the musical quality of the song. Gerbracht (1944) describes the singing of the lark bunting in this way: “Most birds slip in quietly, but everyone knows when the buntings arrive. Everybody is glad to see them, for they are the answer to the things everybody wants to know, as they are both measuring stick and seasonal synchronizers. Just as the meadowlark says, ‘Time to sow wheat; time to sow wheat,’ the bunting says, ‘Click, click, click, get busy, busy, busy, plant corn, corn, corn, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, click, click.’ ” Field mark&: The adult male lark bunting in spring plumage is a wholly black or dark slate color except for conspicuous white patches on the wing. Although one would expect that so strikingly marked a bird would rarely be misidentified, where the ranges of the two birds tend to overlap, the lark bunting and bobolink are not infrequently mistaken for each other (cf. Cameron, 1908; Tout, 1936). The adult female in spring plumage is much less striking, being a grayish-brown above and nearly white below and streaked with dusky both above and below. The wing patch in the female is smaller and is tinged with huffy. In the fall, all ages and sexes look much alike, resembling the adult female.
Enemies: There is little doubt that the breaking up of the prairies and their intensive cultivation in Minnesota, western Iowa, and extreme eastern Nebraska and South Dakota have largely driven the lark bunting out of these areas as a breeding bird. In addition man in his speeding automobile undoubtedly takes an additional toll of lark buntings along the highways during migration. Baumgartner (1934) reports finding dead lark buntings on the highways in both Kansas and Colorado. Both in spring and fall migrations, lark buntings are common along the roadsides and, although the flushed birds tend to fly away from the highway, inevitably a few fly into the path of the automobile.
Inasmuch as the lark buntings are late migrants, they are not generally susceptible to the vagaries of springtime weather in the central plains. However, occasional late spring snowstorms trap large numbers. One such storm was that on May 28: 29, 1947, in northwestern Nebraska, which dumped more than a foot of heavy, wet snow on the ground and brought temperatures down to 180 F. or lower.
As reported by H. J. Cook (1947), lark buntings had arrived a week earlier, but after the storm the migrants were not to be found. In his words:
We have immense numbers of Lark Buntings here each summer; when they migrate in the spring and fall very large flocks are in abundance. I had seen such flocks here for a week before this storm hit. On June 1 Mrs. Cook and I drove to Lusk, Wyoming, and back. I have never seen such a lack of bird life in this region, even in the lead of winter. Coming back in the afternoon we counted the birds we saw along the highway in that 55-mile drive over the high country of Nebraska: Wyoming borderland, near the headwaters of the Niobrara River. Instead of the thousands of Horned Larks and Longspurs normally along this road, we did not see a living bird of those two species. Instead of the numerous flocks of migrating and scattering Lark Buntings, we saw just 23 individuals; all but 3 of these were males and were widely dispersed, one to three in a place.
*** Dead birds are everywhere.
The extent to which the lark bunting is imposed upon by the cowbird has not been accurately determined. J. A. Allen (1874) described the lark bunting as one of the favorite foster parents of the cowbird. In a series of 18 nests that he examined, five contained cowbird eggs; two of them contained two cowbird eggs and one contained three At the same time in 29 nests of other ground-nesting prairie birds not one cowbird egg was found. Strangely, Friedmann (1963) notes only a single subsequent record, a parasitized set of eggs taken in North Dakota, June 9,1963, and now in the Carnegie Museum.
Cameron (1913) has noted that lark buntings were of ten numerous around the nesting sites of Swainson’s hawk in Montana. Occasionally when this hawk could not obtain its favorite food (frogs, grasshoppers, and mice), it attacked the lark bunting. Since no other species of bird was taken, Cameron concluded that the color of the male lark bunting and his soaring habits render him particularly conspicuous and vulnerable to attack. He reports collecting one female Swainson’s hawk whose stomach contained an entire lark bunting and describes one unsuccessful assault as follows:
I have only once myself seen a Swainson’s Hawk in pursuit of a flying bird, although such a chase must not infrequently occur when the hawk is famished or ground game is scarce or absent. In this flight, at any rate, the hawk acquitted herself with considerable dash, and, so far as I know, has added a new record to the hitherto published history of the species. During August, 1909, I saw the female of the pair of Swainson’s Hawks which had been under observation, and whose young had then flown, make a determined swoop at a Lark Bunting on the ground. The quarry crouched under the lowest wire of a protecting fence, and there was no wind to aid the hawk which was obviously so hungry that her valor overcame her discretion. The consequence was that she just missed the bird but collided with the fence, and, losing her balance, fell over. The terrified bunting was the first to recover its wits, and justified its name by soaring straight upwards like a true lark before it flew swiftly away. To my great astonishment the flustered hawk rose in the calm air and flapped after the now distant hunting. With steady beats of her long wings she appeared to be making but Blow progress, whereas, in reality, her speed was more than double that of the fugitive, and she soon overtook it. When, as it appeared to me, about a yard above her quarry, the hawk made a sudden dash to seize the bunting in her claws, which the latter cleverly evaded and then flew off in a different direction. Being assailed only by a clumsy buzzard, which could not “throw up” like a falcon, the little bird escaped rejoicing, although by a narrow margin.
According to Webster (1944) the lark bunting is also preyed upon by the prairie falcon.
Economic status: While it is with us on its breeding grounds there is no doubt that the lark bunting is a beneficial species. The insects it eats (particularly grasshoppers) are of harmful species, or of species of little or no value. Most of its vegetable food consists of weed seeds, or seeds of useless plants. There is less information available as to the food taken during its migration to the south, but Mrs. Bailey (1928) has said that on “isolated ranches, the Lark Buntings sometimes do serious injury to the grain crops in passing, especially in seasons when desert grass seed is scarce, but it is believed that when the country settles up the loss to individuals will be negligible, and the destruction of weed seed and injurious insects is important.” Similarly, Langdon (1933) quotes the conclusions of the Bureau of Biological Survey: “In summer, therefore, under normal conditions in most localities of its range, the Lark Bunting should be regarded as a highly beneficial bird.”
Fall: As the mating and nesting season draws to an end the male lark bunting loses his dark splendor and stills his glorious song, becoming a quiet, sparrowlike imitation of the female. Like the bobolink the buntings gather in flocks of ever-increasing size, which rise and wheel in unison across the prairies, stopping now and then to feed in grassy places, weed patches, or grain fields. According to Wood (1923) on the prairies of North Dakota during this time occasional large flocks of adults and young may be seen feeding about ranch buildings like house sparrows.
The lark bunting is a fairly early migrant. According to W. W. Cooke (1914), the first migrants reached Brownsville, Tex., on July 27, 1881. More commonly the southward migration begins in late July or early August but, as in the spring migration, proceeds so slowly that the stragglers are still in New Mexico during the last week of October. The fall migration is started and is occasionally finished before the annual molt is accomplished; some young birds arrive at the northern edge of their winter range while still in juvenal plumage, and many adults are still molting when the first migrants arrive. Thus, Mrs. Bailey (1928) writes of the migrants arriving in New Mexico:
The Lark Buntings or White-wings, black in the breeding plumage and brown in winter, were first seen in northwestern New Mexico by Mr. Hollister on July 22, 1905. * * * lie writcs regarding them: “The males were in excellent black plumage, but I think they were fresh arrivals from the north, although it may seem early for migration.” Three years previous, in the southeastern part of the State, he had found them five weeks later (September 2-3, 1902). * * * At that time they were all “in brown plumage.”
Previous to August 8, 1908, Major Goldman writes, “When we entered the Animas Mountains from Animas Valley none of the birds had been seen. When we returned to the valley on August 9, we found them numerous in large [black] flocks and they were seen every day until I left the valley, August 19. They were common in flocks, apparently consisting almost entirely of black males, at Socorro, August 11: 24, 1909.” The thousands found by Doctor Dearborn at Carlsbad, August 1: 14, 1910, were also mainly in the breeding plumage, although beginning to molt.
Near Las Vegas, from August 29 to September 1, 1903, small flocks were frequently seen passing over our camp, while numbers were flushed from the fences. At this time they were all in the brown plumage. Near Espanola early in September, 1906, they were also numerous in the fields and along the roads. In one place perhaps three hundred were seen on a wire fence, mostly in the brown plumage.
Winter: The lark buntings, having withdrawn from their breeding range, spend the winter south from southern California, southern Nevada, central Arizona, southern New Mexico, and north-central Texas to southern Baja California, Jalisco, Guana, Vato, and ilildalgo. On their winter range the birds forage in sizeable flocks in the open fields or out on the desert plains and plateaus.
Dawson (1923) says of the winter habits of the lark bunting: “Winter flocks may be composed of both sexes in equal or very unequal proportions. They feed quietly upon the ground in the open, whether along a river bottom or over the baldest desert. The Lark Buntings are not averse to civilization, and they sometimes frequent Mexican dooryards or barnyards with much the freedom and something of the manner of blackbirds.”
Range: High plains of the southern prairie provinces south to central Mexico.
Breeding range: The lark bunting breeds from west central Montana (Missoula), southern Alberta (Waterton Lakes Park, Castor), southern Saskatchewan (Skull Creek, Indian Head), southwestern Manitoba (Brandon), southeastern North Dakota (Valley City), and southwestern Minnesota (Otter Tail and Jackson counties, irregularly) south to central southern Montana (Bozeman, Billings) and, east of the Rocky Mountains, to southeastern New Mexico (Vaughn Lovington), northern Texas, north central Oklahoma (Grant County), and south central and central eastern Kansas (St. John, Rantoul); also locally or sporadically in Utah (Murray) and southwestern Colorado (Navajo Springs).
Winter range: Winters from southern California (San Fernando Valley), southern Nevada (Corn Creek), central Arizona (Camp Verde, San Carlos), southern New Mexico (Deming, Carlsbad), and north central Texas (Colorado, Indianola) south to southern Baja California (Cape San Lucas), Jalisco, Guanajuato (Guanajuato), Hidalgo, northern Tamaulipas (Matamoros), and southern Louisiana (near Grand Isle).
Casual records: Casual, chiefly in migration, west to British Columbia (Wistaria, Okanagan Landing), western Alberta (Banif), Idaho (Minidoka, Grays), and central California (Dudley, Colusa); and east to Ontario (Lowbush), New Brunswick (Grand Manan, West Quaco), Nova Scotia (4 sight records), Massachusetts (10 localities), New York (5 Long Island localities), New Jersey (Island Beach), Pennsylvania (Graterford, Chambersburg), Maryland (Smithville), Virginia (Lexington, Sandbridge), South Carolina (Christ Church Paris), Georgia (Tybee Island) and Florida (near St. Marks light).
Fossil record: Fossil, late Pleistocene of California.
Migration: Early dates of spring arrival are: Iowa: Mason City, May 2. Wisconsin: Milton, April 30. Minnesota: Sherburn, April 12 (average of 7 years for southern Minnesota, May 23). Oldahoma: Red River, March 15; Jackson County, March 27. Nebraska: Red Cloud, April 10 (average of 10 years, May 3). South Dakota: Rapid City, April 8; North Dakota: Janiestown, May 10. Manitoba: Treesbank, May 18 (average of 6 years, May 26). Saskatchewan: Wiseton, April 12. New Mexico: GO miles west of El Paso, April 3. Colorado: Colorado Springs, April 14. Wyoming: Laramie, May 3 (average of 13 years), May 10. Montana: Huntley, April 28. Alberta: Warner, April. 28. Oregon: Saddle Butte, May 14. British Columbia: Wistaria, May 28.
Late dates of spring departure are: Texas: Somerset, April 10. Arizona: Tucson, April 25.
Early dates of fall arrival are: Oklahoma: Ivanhoe Lake, August 12. Texas: Midland, July 14. Ohio: Henry County, August 6. Louisiana: Grand Isle, September 4. New Brunswick: West Quaco, July 26. Maine: Hog Island, August 25. Massachusetts: Princeton, July 28; Martha’s Vineyard, August 5. New York: Easthampton, August 31. New Jersey: Island Beach, September 7. Maryland: Smithville, July 10.
Late dates of fall departure are: Oregon: White City, November 13. Montana: Huntley, September 29. Wyorning: Laramie, September 9 (average of 10 years, August 26). Colorado: Walden, October 2. Saskatchewan: indian Head, September 10. North Dakota: Jamestown, September 5. South Dakota: Rapid City, October 15. Minnesota: Wilder, October 21. Nova Scotia: Cape Island, Shelburne County, October 12. Massachusetts: Wayland, November 11. New York: Wainscott, November 27. Virginia: Sandridge, September 5.
Egg dates: Alberta; 8 records, May 15 to June 2.
Colorado; 23 records, May 22 to July 25; 14 records, June 1 to June 10.
Kansas; 25 records, May 26 to June 24; 12 records, June 6 to June 14.
Montana; 17 records, May 25 to July 21; 9 records, June 13 to June 20.
North Dakota; 1 record, July 20.
Wyoming; 12 records, May 21 to July 8.