Horned Larks (Eremophila alpestris) occur widely across North America, Europe, and central Asia. Knowledge of the breeding biology of Asian Horned Larks is minimal, especially for those populations found at high altitudes. Here, we report breeding patterns of this species at 3,400 m in alpine grasslands of the northeastern Tibetan plateau. Horned Larks are resident throughout the year at our study site. The mating system is social monogamy; nests are built on the ground by the female alone and territories are intensely defended during the breeding season. Clutches are initiated from late April to mid-July, during which a pair may make two nesting attempts. Clutch size averaged 2.52 eggs, and brood parasitism was never observed. Incubation was undertaken by females and lasted 12.4 days; young in the nest were fed by both parents for 9.9 days. Nest success calculated by the Mayfield method was 13.7%. Seasonal variation existed for vegetation height, egg and clutch size, and nest success. Taller vegetation was often associated with more food availability and better nest concealment later in the season, and consequently led to larger clutch size and greater nest success as the season progressed. Compared with low-altitude populations in North America, high-altitude Horned Larks started breeding later, produced fewer but larger eggs, and had a longer nestling period, which suggests that they allocate more energy per offspring as a way to compensate for the harsh conditions and to enhance nest success in high elevation ecosystems.
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