Lark Sparrow

Chondestes grammacus

A conspicuous sparrow of farmlands and roadsides, the Lark Sparrow has a bold face and tail pattern. With unusual courtship displays as well as plumage, it is like no other sparrow and is the sole member of its genus.

Interesting Information

  • Unlike many songbirds, the Lark Sparrow walks on the ground rather than hops. It hops only during courtship.

  • A courting male Lark Sparrow crouches on the ground, holds his tail up at a 45 degree angle from the ground, spreads the tail feathers to show off the white tips, and then struts with its wings drooping so that the wingtips nearly touch the ground. When the female is receptive, the male gives her a small twig just before copulation.

  • The Lark Sparrow often takes over old mockingbird or thrasher nests instead of building its own. Occasionally the eggs and young of two species are found in the same nest, suggesting that the Lark Sparrow shares the nest with the other bird.

  • A group of sparrows has many collective nouns, including a "crew", "flutter", "meinie", "quarrel", and "ubiquity" of sparrows.


Adult Description

  • Large sparrow.

  • Long, rounded tail with white corners.

  • Plain whitish underparts with large dark spot in center of breast.

  • Striking face pattern.

  • Length Range: 15-17 cm (5.75-6.75 in)

  • Weight: 28 g (1 oz)

  • Size: Small (5 - 9 in)


Juvenile with brown streaks on chest. Face pattern more obscure with browns instead of chestnut and black, and dirty white stripes. First winter has adult pattern, but duller on face.


Photo taken from: The Sibley Field Guide by David Allen Sibley

© 2003 Cornell Lab of Ornithology


Breeds in open habitats, where grass adjoins scattered trees and shrubs, especially in poor or sandy soils. Park-like woodlands, mesquite grasslands, fallow fields with brushy edges, sagebrush.


Forages for food on the ground


Insects and seeds.



Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
     Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Emberizidae
Genus: Chondestes
Species: Chondestes grammacus
    Subspecies: Chondestes grammacus grammacus
  Chondestes grammacus strigatus

Similar Species

  • Vesper Sparrow has white only on the edges of its tail, has a streaked breast, and lacks the bold face pattern.

Bird Sound

Does not sing. Calls buzzy; also sharp chips. Wings of adult male make a high, buzzy trill.

Eggs look like this

Photo taken from: ARCTOS Collaborative Collection Management Solution