This species exhibits as much geographic variation in appearance as any North American passerine, with 21 recognized subspecies (http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/195). Adult male has upperparts that vary from a cold pale sandy-brown to warmer medium brown with reddish tones. Median wing coverts, which are more reddish-brown, typically contrast with the rest of upperparts. Sides of the neck may have slightly pinkish cast. Underparts are mostly with varying amounts of sandy-brown or reddish brown wash along the flanks and a black crescent across the upper breast. The amount of yellow on the breast is ranges a heavy wash to none. Some subspecies show streaking on the flanks and upper breast, but most males are unstreaked. Tail is noticeably darker (blackish) than the rest of the upperparts with narrow white outer tail feathers. Geographic variation is most evident in the facial pattern, which shows yellow of varying amounts and intensity on the throat, supraloral and supercilium and a black mask that extends from the base of the bill through the lores and then curves down below the eye. Crown is mostly brown or streaked brown and black with lateral black stripes along the sides. The anterior black crown feathers are long and form "horns" that project on either side of crown when raised, but are invisible when laid flat. Adult females lack projecting horn feathers on the crown, are more uniform brownish above, and have a subdued face pattern. Juveniles resemble females, but lack the black and yellow face pattern and show spotting on the back. Their head is marked by a large dusky-brown auricular patch, whitish throat and a weak creamy-white supercilium. Young birds may be mistaken for pipits and longspurs. Typical hunched posture makes birds appear short-legged. In flight this species will appear longer-tailed than longspurs and darker-tailed compared to pipits.
Length: 18 (cm) Wingspan: 30 (cm)
Song, usually offered from high in the air, is a series of high, sweet phrases that spirals up at the end. Most common call is best described as a tweedling "see dirt.''
Barren ground, dirt fields, grazed pastures, dry lakebeds, playas, sagebrush, tilled farm fields, sand dunes, dry areas with sparse vegetation.
Walks slowly along ground, sometimes running in quick bursts, feeding with flattened posture. Skylarking males perform spring flight displays, singing high above ground. Nest is a depression lined with fine materials, hidden among upright grasses. Forms large winter flocks, sometimes mixed with longspurs.
Forages on barren ground or among sparse vegetation, pecking at seeds, grains, and insects.
Expanded Life History
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