Lark sparrows are summer residents of the American Midwest, Great Plains and Great Basin; found primarily west of the Mississippi River, their range extends into southern Canada, across eastern portions of the Pacific Northwest and throughout lower elevations of California. During the colder months, they head for the Desert Southwest, South Texas, the Gulf Coast region, Mexico and Central America.
The only member of their Genus, lark sparrows sport a striking facial pattern of white, black and chestnut-brown stripes, a white breast with a central black spot and a white edge at the end of their long tail; the latter edge, thicker laterally than centrally, is a good field mark for novice birders. These handsome sparrows favor open grasslands with scattered shrubs or trees and are often found along country roads where they scour the gravel for insects and seeds. When threatened, they often escape to dense vegetation rather than taking flight.
Lark sparrows seem to be more abundant at Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area (in central Missouri) this year but this may merely reflect a personal familiarity with these grassland birds that inhabit both of my home States. Regardless, it's always good to see them as spring turns to summer.