Lark Bunting
(Calamospiza melanocorys)


Picture of bird
© Jukka Jantunen (
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

The Lark Bunting breeds on the grasslands of the southern prairie provinces. Its populations are highly nomadic from year to year, as they avoid areas of drought and seek out areas with adequate rainfall and food. Data from the Breeding Bird Survey show extreme annual fluctuations in population size, but overall a large decrease in population since 1970. The species was assessed as Threatened by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada because of the decrease in numbers. This species has been identified as a priority for conservation and/or stewardship in one or more Bird Conservation Region Strategies in Canada.


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
COSEWIC (Canada)Threatened2017 
SARA (Canada)No Status  
IUCN (Global)Least concern2018 
Partners in Flight (North America)Common birds in steep decline2017 
Wild Species (Canada)Apparently secure2015 
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaLarge DecreaseMediumBelow Acceptable Level

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada50,000 - 500,000 adults

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence

Short-distance migrant

Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population

General nesting period in Canada

Nesting period starts between late May and early June and ends in late July, depending on the region. Before or after this period, the probability of an active nest is lower.

Conservation and management

Due to its nomadic tendencies, the Lark Bunting has been difficult to survey. However, long-term data suggest large declines across the breeding range (COSEWIC 2017b). Declining grassland habitats and insecticide toxicity are considered to be the primary threats to the species (COSEWIC 2017b). Another possible threat includes cattle grazing in short-grass prairie habitat, but grazing intensity was found to have little effect in mixed and tall-grass prairies (Skagen and Yackel Adams 2010, Fontaine et al. 2004). Management recommendations in Dechant et al. 1999 include retaining large areas of grassland habitat with a shrub component, avoiding the burning of breeding areas, delaying the mowing of hayfields, and keeping rangeland in good condition.


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type
Prairie PotholesPrairie Potholes, sub-region and priority type: Prairie and Northern -- Conservation