Seeing birds along our highways is common after a heavy snow in the Midwest. The flocks are drawn to the freshly exposed grassy areas created by the snowplows. At a time when the farm fields are covered in a heavy blanket of white, the roadsides serve as a buffet of weed seeds and spilled grains. When the snow blows or melts off the fields, the birds seem to disappear, at least until the next significant snowfall.
So, what kind of birds are they anyway? Granted, there are many types of birds feeding along the highways. But the three most typical species of birds seen in flocks are Horned Larks, Lapland Longspurs, and Snow Buntings. The flocks can be composed of singles species or mixed species.
The most common of the three species is the Horned Lark. When on bare ground, they can blend in when their backs are turned toward you. But, when they turn their head, you are greeted with a nice yellow face, black mask, and occasionally you can see their tiny black horns protruding.
The Lapland Longspur is the second most common of these three species. They nest on the Tundra and over-winter across the Midwest.
Snow Buntings are true northern birds, nesting in the high Arctic and overwintering in Canada and the United States.
The next time we get a significant snowfall, take the time to check out these interesting birds. Of course, make sure you pull completely off the road and stay safe.