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Lark Bunting in Ohio!

Photo: Dane Adams

Bird of the moment in the Buckeye State is a western vagrant, the Lark Bunting, Calamospiza melanocrys, which has occupied some brushy tangles in Tuscarawas County since last Saturday, November 3. I'm not sure who exactly discovered this easily overlooked bird, but Bruce Glick, Ed and Leroy Schlabaugh, and Leroy Erb were mentioned on what I think was the first email to announce the bird. It's a fabulous discovery of a very rare species (for us) that could have easily been overlooked.

Dane Adams made the scene a few days ago, and sent along some of his characteristically excellent photos. In the above image, the bird peers from the dense thorny shelter of a hawthorn tree; apparently it is fond of lurking in dense growth such as this.

Photo: Dane Adams

Lark Buntings belong to the sparrow tribe (Emberizidae), and just about anyone might guess that by looking at this bird, which appears to be a juvenile male. But if you were to see this animal next summer, you'd not even think it to be the same species. Adult male Lark Buntings in their breeding finery wear a coat of jet black, offset by large white wing patches, thus transforming into one of our flashiest sparrows.

Map: Cornell Lab of Ornithology

As can be seen from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's fine map, Ohio is a bit off the Lark Bunting's beaten path. This is a sparrow of the Great Plains that normally retires to the southwest U.S. and Mexico for the winter.

However, small numbers of Lark Buntings regularly wander well to the east of their normal haunts, and Ohio's current bird is by no means our first. This is probably the 13th or 14th record for the state.

Kudos to the finders of this bird, and congratulations to everyone who has successfully made the trek to see it. And of course, I appreciate as always Dane Adams' excellent camera work and his willingness to share his imagery with us.


Gaia Gardener: said…
So glad that you posted this. I didn't realize how much the winter lark bunting looked like the winter Harris sparrows, which we have in great abundance here. Now I'll be keeping my eyes peeled to see if I can spy a few of the buntings among the sparrow flocks around here.
Jim McCormac said…
Glad you found the post useful, and good luck in finding a Lark Bunting!
kamikaze gardener said…
we been seeing these in MN this week (we LOVE migration time) and none of the "bird book" pix could decide between a couple options, but YOUR pic is SPOT ON our little pair. THANK YOU for putting an end to our conundrum.

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