Family Larks (Alaudidae)

Least Concern

Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris)


French: Alouette hausse-col German: Ohrenlerche Spanish: Alondra cornuda

Alauda alpestris


, 1758,

coast of South Carolina, USA


See E. bilopha. Numerous races described over vast range, based mainly on differences in size, ground colour (partly determined by local soil colour) and pattern; recent molecular study suggested taxa in Old World break into five species (excluding E. bilopha), E. elwesi (although unsampled longirostris has priority if it belongs to this clade), E. atlas, E. penicillata, E. brandti and E. flava#R, but sampling incomplete making confident allocation of other taxa to these species impossible; moreover, little consistent fit of morphological characters to proposed species, and vocal analysis reveals no marked differences#R. Race teleschowi sometimes treated as separate species, apparently not interbreeding with other races where ranges overlap. Race kumerloevei perhaps synonymous with penicillata#R. Review of material in NHMUK here suggests a reduction of New World subspecies by synonymising praticola with nominate; enthymia with leucolaema; alpina, merrilli, utahensis and lamprochroma with strigata; sierrae with rubea; actia, ammophila and leucansiptila with occidentalis; lactea and aphrasta with adusta; and oaxacae and diaphora with chrysolaema. Twenty-eight subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • E. a. arcticola (Oberholser, 1902) – Alaska and NW Canada (Yukon S to British Columbia); winters in W USA.
  • E. a. hoyti (Bishop, 1896) – N Canada (N Baffin I S to N Alberta and W Ontario); winters in N USA.
  • E. a. alpestris (Linnaeus, 1758) – American Horned Lark – E Canada (W Ontario E to Newfoundland and S to Nova Scotia) and E USA (E from Minnesota and S to Kansas and N Carolina); N populations winter in E USA.
  • E. a. strigata (Henshaw, 1884) – W & WC Canada and USA (British Columbia S to N California and E to Idaho, Nevada and Utah); N populations winter in W USA.
  • E. a. leucolaema Coues, 1874 – SW & SC Canada (S Alberta E to Manitoba) S to WC & SC USA (S to New Mexico E to Texas).
  • E. a. rubea (Henshaw, 1884) – NE & C California.
  • E. a. insularis (Dwight, 1890) – Channel Is, off SW California.
  • E. a. occidentalis (McCall, 1851) – SW USA (S California and SW Nevada E to C New Mexico) and NW Mexico (N Baja California and NW Sonora).
  • E. a. adusta (Dwight, 1890) – S Arizona E to S New Mexico S in Mexico to Durango and E to Coahuila.
  • E. a. enertera (Oberholser, 1907) – C Baja California.
  • E. a. giraudi (Henshaw, 1884) – coastal S USA (S Texas) S to NE Mexico.
  • E. a. chrysolaema (Wagler, 1831) – S Mexican Plateau from SE Coahuila and Zacatecas S to Jalisco, Michoacán, Morelos, Veracruz and NE Puebla; also C Oaxaca.
  • E. a. peregrina (P. L. Sclater, 1855) – E Andes of Colombia (Altiplano Cundiboyacense, N of Bogotá).
  • E. a. flava (J. F. Gmelin, 1789) – Shore Lark – N Eurasia E to NE Russia (Anadyrland), S to S Norway, L Baikal and NW Amurland; winters in W & C Europe E to Kazakhstan, Mongolia and C China.
  • E. a. brandti (Dresser, 1874) – Steppe Horned Lark – SE European Russia (lower R Volga) and N Transcaspia E to NE China (Inner Mongolia), S to N Turkmenistan, Tien Shan and Mongolia; N populations migrate S.
  • E. a. atlas (Whitaker, 1898) – Atlas Horned Lark – Morocco (Atlas Mts).
  • E. a. balcanica (Reichenow, 1895) – SE Europe (S Balkans and Greece).
  • E. a. kumerloevei Roselaar, 1995 – W & C Asia Minor.
  • E. a. penicillata (Gould, 1838) – Caucasian Horned Lark – E Turkey and Caucasus E to N & W Iran.
  • E. a. bicornis (C. L. Brehm, 1842) – Lebanon and N Israel–S Syria border (Mt Hermon).
  • E. a. albigula (Bonaparte, 1850) – SW Turkmenistan and NE Iran E to W Tien Shan and S to NW Pakistan.
  • E. a. argalea (Oberholser, 1902) – N Ladakh, extreme W China (W Kunlun Shan) and W Tibetan Plateau.
  • E. a. teleschowi (Przevalski, 1887) – C & E Kunlun Shan from S Xinjiang E to NW Qinghai and S to N Xizang (W China).
  • E. a. przewalskii (Bianchi, 1904) – Qaidam Basin, in N Qinghai.
  • E. a. nigrifrons (Przevalski, 1876) – mountains of NE Qinghai.
  • E. a. longirostris (F. Moore, 1856) – Himalayan Horned Lark – Himalayas from NE Pakistan and Kashmir E to Sikkim.
  • E. a. elwesi (Blanford, 1872) – S & E Tibetan Plateau.
  • E. a. khamensis (Bianchi, 1904) – SC China (SE Xizang, W Sichuan).
  • Descriptive notes

    14–17 cm; 30–40 g. Medium-sized lark with short bill, fairly long tail, and striking head pattern with elongated lateral crown feathers (“horns”).... read more


    Song, from ground or in air, often consists of a few simple, rippling trills followed by short... read more


    The only lark to have successfully colonized tundra and alpine habitats; throughout range prefers... read more

    Food and feeding

    Wide range of invertebrates in summer and plant material in winter. Main invertebrate prey items are grasshoppers (Acrididae), beetles (... read more


    In North America, season from mid-Feb in S USA (one of earliest nesters) and from mid-May in Canadian Arctic; in Eurasia, breeds from late... read more


    Migratory or partially migratory in N; mostly resident or altitudinal migrant in S. Across... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Common to locally very common; scarce in some areas. Has one of the largest world ranges of any songbird, and is the only alaudid... read more

    Recommended citation

    Donald, P. & de Juana, E. (2018). Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 19 December 2018).