Medium-sized terrestrial songbird with long, slender bill, short tail with rather rigid rectrices, and long legs and toes. Nostril ovate, overhang by prominent horny operculum. Crown dark with light median stripe. A light line over eye becomes bright yellow from eye to bill. Upperparts with intricate concealing pattern of buffs, browns, and black streaks and bars. Underparts bright yellow, the sides, flanks, and undertail-coverts dull white, broadly streaked and spotted with dusky black. Outer wing and tail feathers barred with black and brown; outer rectrices partly white. Adult has a black shield-shaped or crescentic patch on chest. Sexes similar in coloration. Female smaller and slightly less strongly marked (Lanyon 1994).
For a comprehensive review of the conservation status, habitat use, and ecology of this and other Montana bird species, please see Marks et al. 2016, Birds of Montana.
Western Hemisphere Range
eBird Occurrence Map
Click the map for more info.
In the Bozeman area, normal migration periods are not determined for spring, and are September 5 to October 25 in the fall.
Most common in native grasslands and pastures, but also in hay and alfalfa fields, weedy borders of croplands, roadsides, orchards, or other open areas; occasionally desert grassland. Preference shown for habitats with good grass and lighter cover (Lanyon 1994).
Diet consists largely of vegetable matter (grain and weed seeds) and animal matter (insects). Favorite insect foods include beetles, weevils, wireworms, cutworms, grasshoppers, and crickets. Seasonal differences: grain during winter and early spring, insects late spring and summer, weed seeds in fall (Lanyon 1994).
Females arrive 2 to 4 weeks after male. Nests are located in pasture, prairie, or other grassland habitat; rarely in cultivated fields. Well concealed, on ground, often in shallow depressions and usually in fairly dense vegetation. Eggs usually ovate, ground-colored white and speckled. Clutch size ranges 3 to 7 eggs (Lanyon 1994). Near Fortine, egg dates range from April 30 to June 23. Statewide, nesting is from the 2nd week of May to the 1st week of August.