Crested lark

Galerida cristata

TAXONOMY

Alauda cristata Linnaeus, 1758, "in Europae viis" = Vienna. OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Cochevis huppé; German: Haubenlerche; Spanish: Cogujada Común.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

6.7 in (17 cm); male 1.3-1.8 oz (37-52 g); female 1.3-1.7 oz (37-48 g); not as large as skylark, more robust, with stronger bill and longer crest. Uniformly dull-colored plumage, upper-parts and breast heavily streaked, sexes alike. Very similar to Thekla lark, its sibling species.

DISTRIBUTION

From southern Europe as far as southern Scandinavia. North Africa south to Senegambia, eastward through Chad and Sudan to Ethiopia and Somalia. Does not occur in the Sahara. Breeds from Arabian Peninsula toward India, Nepal, Mongolia, China, and Korea. In southern France and North Africa east of Libya, sympatric with Thekla lark.

HABITAT

Variety of habitats, mainly open areas with sparse vegetation, also cultivated land and other man-made semideserts such as railways, airfields, and wastelands. Where it co-occurs with the Thekla lark, the crested lark occupies the plains, the Thekla inhabits rocky and bushy slopes.

BEHAVIOR

Largely sedentary, not gregarious, low flight distance. Song-flight starts from perch, male ascends silently at angle up to 230 ft (70 m), then utters loud and melodious song ascending further up to 330 ft (100 m) and more, flying wide circles over territory. Song, uttered on ground or from perch, lasts four minutes on average, but up to 30 minutes have been observed. Known to perfectly imitate other bird songs and calls. One extraordinary example, the imitation of a shepherd's whistle reproduced so accurately that sheep dogs obey the signals as if the shepherd has given them.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Diet consists mainly of vegetal food; seeds and green plant material taken from ground or picked directly from plants; food remains in horse-droppings also exploited. Can husk seeds. Animal food taken to larger extent during breeding season, but proportion is negligible during rest of the year. Young fed with insects and worms.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Monogamous. Breeds April-June in Europe; female builds cup-shaped nest alone, lays three to five, rarely seven, eggs. Incubation by female alone, 11-17 days. Both parents feed young, which leave nest after eight to 11 days before being able to fly.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

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