Wood lark

Lullula arbórea

TAXONOMY

Alauda arbórea Linnaeus, 1758, Europe-Sweden. OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Alouette lulu; German: Heidelerche; Spanish: Totovía. PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

5.9 in (15 cm); male 0.7-1.2 oz (21-35 g); female 1.1-1.2 oz (30-35 g); smaller and more slender than skylark and crested lark. Plumage buff brown, upperparts and chest streaked, distinguished from other larks by broad, white supercilium which continues to nape. Black-and-white pattern of alula (first digit of wing) feathers very conspicuous. Crown feathers can be raised to a small crest.

DISTRIBUTION

Northern West Africa, Europe from the Mediterranean to southern Scandinavia, Asia Minor east to Iran and Turk-meniya.

HABITAT

Requires habitat with short grass for feeding, higher vegetation for nesting, exposed trees or bushes as song-perches.

BEHAVIOR

Not gregarious, even during migration. Northern populations migratory, wintering in southern Europe and North Africa; southern populations mostly resident. Arboreal, walks on branches and perches on treetops, bushes, and wires. For song-flight, males take off from perch in tree top, ascend at an angle, spiral upward and fly circles on nearly same level 165-330 ft (50-100 m) above ground, singing all the time (unpaired males fly higher than paired ones). Descent either in stages while still singing or sometimes silently with wings closed. Song-flight takes two minutes on average, but unpaired males have been watched singing for 70 and 94 minutes. Males also sing from perch or ground, and frequently on moonlit nights. Song composed of pleasing and soft phrases, hesitant at the beginning, then increasingly forceful and louder. High site-fidelity of males has been shown by ringing experiments.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Feeds on small insects and spiders during breeding season, otherwise mainly granivorous.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Monogamous. Breeds March through June; cup-shaped nest built by female. Two, sometimes three broods annually; clutch size normally three to five eggs, female incubates for 11-15 days. Young fed by both parents, leave nest after eight days before being able to fly. If female starts incubation of second brood, male cares for young of first clutch alone.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened, though declining populations in Europe caused by habitat loss; listed in Annex I of the European Birds Directive.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

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