basic information

Horned Lark

Eremophila alpestris (Linnaeus, 1758)

Рогатый жаворонок | Құлақты бозторғай

Kuryk. Mangystau oblast.
© Askar Isabekov


The adult male Horned Lark has grayish-pink nape and uppertail; mantle and upperwings are grey faintly streaked. The top of forehead and elongate feathers of the crown ("horns") are black. The median forehead, supercilium and ear coverts are white (or sulphur-yellow on subspecies flava). The strip beginning on the low forehead and bill base and extending under the eye is black as the cheeks also. This strip can merge with the broad black breast-patch (on mountain race albigula) but can separated by the white area (on other races). The throat is white. The light parts of the head on flava subspecies may be not white but sulphur-yellow. The flight feathers are pale-brownish with narrow off-white edges on the outer webs. The narrow ended central pair of the tail feathers is brownish with paler edges of webs; the outer tail feathers are brownish with white outer webs; other ones are black. The breast under the black patch, abdomen and undertail are grayish-white. Females are paler than males; with faintly obvious "horns". The light parts are greyer, the streaks on upperparts are neater than on males; black parts on the forehead may be faintly obvious. The legs are black, the bill is blackish-brown with the yellow base of low mandible, eyes are brown. Juveniles in first plumage are grey brownish and whitish mottled above and whitish-grey below. The breast is dark-grey tinged with mottles. Sizes: males – wing 103.0-117.5, tail 65.0-85.0; females – wing 98.0-109.0, tail - 65.0-82.0 mm. Weight: 23.0-43.5 grams.


The range of the Horned Lark is difficult and mosaic. In Kazakhstan the status of the Horned lark becomes complicated also that two subspecies are residents, and the third one occurs only on wintering. The detailed distribution in Kazakhstan please see in the chapter "Races".


The Horned Lark is common, in some areas numerous, resident or winter visitor. Inhabits desert and semi-desert with stunted vegetation on clay or stony tracts of low mountains and hills, edges of saline pans, sandy areas on plains, and alpine steppe and meadow on alluvial fans near snowfields at altitude of 2000-4000 m in the Tien Shan mountains. During passage and in winter it prefers open habitats, roads, pastures, settlements and farms. In spring brandti pairs form late in March, while albigula pairs form later, from end of April to mid of May. Breeds in separate pairs not close to one another. Ground nest is built in shallow scrape under grass or stone shelter and made of dry grass and rootlets lined with soft grass and plenty of hair and vegetation fluff (such warm lining only in mountains). Clutches of 2-4 eggs are laid April – end June. Both parents (mostly female) incubate for 9-10 days, and feed juveniles, which fledge at 10-11 days old, at end May – mid July. Most pairs are double-brooded. Long breeding period can be explained by different phenology on plains and in highlands. For most of the year resident birds live in flocks of several dozen birds. Northern flava appear in autumn at end October – early November, and depart in March or April. Desert brandti winter on plains, whereas mountain albigula winter in foothills and low mountains.


Eremophila alpestris flava (Gmelin, 1789)

    Description. Upperparts are generally darker, more brown less pink-grey; the upperparts streaks are bolder and darker than on brandti. The forehead and throat are yellow or whitish-yellow. The black mask and breast-collar not merged and separated by a yellow or whitish-yellow strip.
    Distribution. Occurs only in winter on almost all territory of the plains of Kazakhstan, sometimes winters on Markakol lake.

Eremophila alpestris brandti (Dresser, 1874)

    Description. Upperparts are generally lighter, more pink-grey less brown; the upperparts streaks are lighter and narrower than on flava. The forehead and throat are white. The black mask and breast-collar not merged and separated by the white strip.
    Distribution. Breeds in most of plains areas, in north up to Kamysh-Samar lakes, Ilek river basin, Betpak-Dala, Kazakh upland, Semeytau and Zaysan depression.

Eremophila alpestris albigula (Bonaparte, 1850)

    Description. General upperparts are similar on brandti, but the rear mantle is more clayey less grey than on brandti. The forehead and throat are white. The black color of cheeks and breast merges, forming the black ring around the white throat.
    Distribution. Breeds in highlands of Tien Shan, Dzhungarskiy Alatau, Saur and Chiliktinskaya valley. Details of seasonal distribution are not known.


"Птицы Казахстана" том 3. "Наука". Алма-Ата, 1970.
Gavrilov E. I., Gavrilov A. E. "The Birds of Kazakhstan". Almaty, 2005.
Э.И.Гаврилов. "Фауна и распространение птиц Казахстана". Алматы, 1999.



Eremophila alpestris flava
(Gmelin, 1789)
Eremophila alpestris brandti
(Dresser, 1874)
Eremophila alpestris albigula
(Bonaparte, 1850)

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