Skylark

Alauda arvensis

18-19cm

Appearance

Skylarks are streaky and they have a crest which can be raised or flat at different times. The upperparts are streaky brown, the underparts are off-white, the tail has white feathers on the edge, and the breast is buffish and streaky. There is a light-coloured patch across the eye. When flying the wings have a trailing edge of white. Juvenile birds are similar though the pale edges of their feathers make them appear scaly.

Habitat

Breeding occurs in grassy upland areas such as fields, heaths and coastal marshes. Tends towards farmland and saltmarshes during winter.

Character

Majority of the Skylark's time is spent on the ground, hunching when it senses a threat, but it will also make use of perches that aren't too high. When flying, has quite a fluttery take-off, then flutters and glides, flutters and glides. May fly to great heights when in songflight, then glides down, getting faster near the ground. Large flocks form when not breeding.

Food

Eats plants and animals including springtails, flies, beetles, moths, spiders, snails, grain, nettles and docks.

Breeding

Female lays 3 or 4 eggs at the end of March or start of April, and incubates clutch for 10-14 days. Both adults feed hatchlings, which depart the nest at about 8 days old, and learn to fly after about 16 days. Adults continue to care for them for a few days after fledging. Multiple broods (up to three) may be brought up over springtime.

Population

Some populations tend to migrate, particularly ones from northern areas. Birds of the region may move south from upland territories but seldom travel far, and others are resident. European visitors usually arrive to the region during October and leave in January. Populations are on the decline, but there are still approximately 1.5 million territories in the UK and over 250 000 in Ireland.

Observation Tips

Farming methods have affected the Skylark's presence on agricultural land, where it was once abundant. Birds are most widespread in grassy lowland areas of the region in summer.

Voice

Most commonly heard call is a 'chrrrrp', and also has a high-pitched song of trills and whistles.
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