Skylark (Alauda arvensis)

The Skylark (Alauda arvensis) is a tuneful songbird whose long warbling song is a welcome sign of the arrival of spring in the British uplands.

The Skylark's most distinctive behaviour is the song of the male birds. They climb rapidly into the sky then hover and sing for long periods, before eventually falling to ground in a parachute style, singing as they go (often producing a descending pitch as they drop).

The Lark family has a wide diet, normally eating a mix of seeds and insects. The Skylark concentrates in insects in the summer, and especially in the breeding season, and eats more seeds in the winter. They remove the husks from seeds and legs and wings from large insects by beating them against the ground.

The Skylark lives on open grasslands. It is believed to have spread into northern and central Europe in the 7th-13th centuries due to increased deforestation and a period of expanding agriculture. Although it is most often seen in the sky, it is a largely ground dwelling bird.

Some Skylark populations migrate, but the British breeding population is largely sedentary. Some northern birds move south for the winter (or at least onto lower ground), but only within the country. The Skylark is in decline in the UK. Numbers fell by 51% between 1968 and 1995, a loss of around three millions breeding pairs. In 1997 there were around one million breeding pairs. Some European migrants reach the UK between October and January.

The Skylark is one of four species in the Alauda genus, but the only one to be found in the UK. The other British breeding lark, the Woodlark, is the only member of the Lullula genus

The Skylark is a small bird brown bird, with darker streaks on the back and an off-white underside. The upper part of the breast is streaked brown and off-white. The head feathers can be raised into a short crest. The bird moults between July and September.

The Skylark breeds in April-July. It normally produces two broods, and more rarely a third. The female builds cup-shaped nests in depressions in the ground and the female lays 3-5 eggs (sometimes rising to 7). The female incubates the eggs for 12-14 days and the chicks leave the nest after 8-10 days. The young fly after 16-20 days. Both parents care for the chicks, continuing to do so for ten days after they have fledged.

The Skylark lives on dense grasslands and cultivated farmlands. In the UK it can often be found in grassy upland areas.

Order: Passeriformes (Perching Birds)
Suborder: Passeri (Oscines) (Songbirds)
Family: Alaudidae
Genus: Alauda (Lark)
Species: Arvensis (Thistle)

The Skylark is native to a narrow strip of North Africa, most of mainland Europe, the UK, Scandinavia and a wide strip running east across Asia to Siberia and China. It has also been introduced in Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii and Vancouver Island. It reached Siberia after the formation of the Baring Straits and isn't found in Alaska.

Physical Details
Length: 18-19cm
Weight: 27-55g (male), 17-47g (female)
Lifespan: Oldest ringed bird 9 years