Greater shorttoed lark

Calandrella brachydactyla

TAXONOMY

Alauda brachydactila Leisler, 1814, France and Italy = Montpellier, France.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Short-toed lark; French: Alouette calandrelle; German: Kurzzehenlerche; Spanish: Terrera Grande.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

5.1-5.5 in (13-14 cm); male 0.7-1.0 oz (21-28 g); female 0.6-0.9 oz (17-26 g). Small lark with dull, cryptic plumage, no streaks on chest. Bill short and finchlike. Sexes alike.

DISTRIBUTION

North Africa, southern Europe, eastward from Asia Minor through Mongolia to China.

HABITAT

Steppe with sparse vegetation, cultivated land, seashores, and saline areas. Avoids desert, moist areas, and vicinity of forests.

BEHAVIOR

Populations of Europe and Middle East migratory, wintering south to Sahel and Red Sea. Birds from central Asia winter in India. Highly gregarious outside breeding season. Song-flight performed by male in wide circles in sequence of deep and shallow undulations. Male ascends stepwise, uttering first phrase of melodious song with imitations of other birds, then stops singing and beating wings, drops down, ascends, and drops down again before next ascent, while singing starts again. Song-flight ends with descent or glide-in stages. Song sometimes performed from ground or perch.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Diet changes from insects and seeds in summer to nearly exclusively seeds during winter. Can go for months without drinking, even drinks brackish water.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Monogamous. Breeds April through June; cup-shaped nest often surrounded by pieces of mud, dung, and small stones. Female lays four to five eggs, incubates and broods alone, but both parents feed young.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened, though decreasing in France; listed in Annex I of the European Birds Directive.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

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