Behavior

Larks are diurnal, ground-dwelling birds, sleeping on the ground in self-made depressions. They scratch their head by indirect method, and frequently take baths in dust or sand like chickens. They may bathe in rain, but not in water. Larks move on the ground by walking and running, reaching high speeds. Their flight is typically strong and undulating, with wings closed periodically.

Larks inhabiting arid climates have evolved certain strategies to cope with these severe conditions. They avoid contact with hot soil by perching on elevated stones and shrubs, and during the hottest part of the day, they become inactive and shelter in the shade provided by vegetation or stones. In the Arabian desert, larks rest in lizard burrows. Parents shade their nestlings by standing over them with wings spread.

Larks are famous for their melodious and continuous songs, which last from minutes to up to almost an hour. Some species even sing at night. Many species enlarge their reper

toire with imitations of other bird songs and calls. Because of this behavior, the Mongolian lark (Melanocorypha mongolica) is called "Hundred Melodies" in China and is a favored cage bird in East Asia. The Latakoo or melodious lark (Mirafra cheniana) is known to imitate 57 different bird species—even ducks, guineafowl, and bee-eaters—and single males can be distinguished by the set of birds they imitate. Some species, such as the crested lark, may even imitate human whistling.

Song is performed during aerial song-displays while males circle about their territories. Some species rise almost vertically from ground or perch and ascend up to 330 ft (100 m) or more before gliding or dropping with closed wings back to the ground. Continual hovering and singing is characteristic for the skylark. Several lark species frequently utter their songs from the ground and elevated perches such as stones, tops of bushes, or trees.

During its song-flight, the male of the black lark claps its wings above its back, reminiscent of the flight-display of pigeons. Some species within the genus Mirafra, as well as the Dupont's lark, can create rattling sounds with their flight feathers, a sound often compared to the song of cicadas. Wing flapping is generally performed during the lark's ascending phase of song-flight. The frequency of flaps is species-specific and individually variable, and regional dialects can be distinguished. The extent of the wing-flapping behavior is also species specific. Other than its melodious song, the white-tailed lark (Mirafra albicauda) utters only soft instrumental sounds. Nonvocal sounds are more prominent in rufous-naped lark (M. africana), and clapper lark (M. apiata), where clattering-flight is still followed by singing. In the flappet lark, however, sound created by the wings replaces the bird's song almost entirely.

As far as one knows, courtship behavior is displayed on the ground. The male hops and steps around the female in upright posture spreading and cocking its tail-feathers. The undertail-coverts are presented to the female (they are entirely black in the black and the black-crowned sparrow-lark). The wings are drooped and also spread to some degree quivering slightly. The crown feathers are raised even in species without elongated crest feathers. During display, the male utters song fragments. Occasionally, the male presents food items to its mate immediately before copulation (courtship-feeding).

Several desert-inhabiting larks, including sparrow-larks, are nomadic, and their movements depend on rainfall and food supply. Migratory and nomadic species have to some extent a flocking behavior, and some species form sex-specific flocks during winter months. The granivorous larks, members of the genera Eremopterix and Calandrella, are very gregarious outside their breeding period, forming large flocks.

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