Wiltshire and Swindon Biological Records Centre

Skylark - Alauda arvensis

The resident Skylark can be seen year round, particularly in June and July above arable land and grassland and is well known for the song of the male, which is delivered in hovering flight.

Skylark, WSBRC/ David Kjaer

 

Habitat

Open countryside mainly in farmland and grassland. During the breeding season it is well concealed in vegetation on lowland farming areas. In winter it is in open stubble fields.

Description

A distinctive feature of the Skylark is its short crest that it raises when it gets excited. It is difficult to tell the males and females apart as they both have streaky brown upperparts, which spread to the upper breast, and cream below. The tail is brown with white outer feathers that are only visible while it is in flight. Their feathers have dark centres with pale fringes and they have a pale eye-stripe that extends to the cheek patch.

Biology

The Skylark's song is quite variable, often quite mimetic. While it sings it seems to hang in the air for up to five minutes, at the height of 50-100m, until it reaches the peak of its territorial display, when it then slowly descends. It can often seem that the sky is full of bird song. This is the easiest time to see Skylark’s; they are hard to spot on the ground.

The male has slightly broader wings than the female and is probably an adaptation for more efficient hovering flight. It is thought to have this because of the female Skylarks' preference for males that sing and hover for longer periods and so demonstrate that they are likely to have good overall fitness.

They nest April to August on the ground in dense vegetation and can have up to four broods in a breeding season. When breeding the Skylark nests on the ground, well concealed in vegetation on lowland farming areas where there is low vegetation coverage. In winter it prefers stubble fields, root crops and young pasture.

Skylarks feed on seeds and insects.

Threats

The numbers of Skylarks in Wiltshire (as in the rest of Britain) have been declining, mainly due to changes in farming methods from spring-sown crops to autumn sown crops. The increase in the use of agri-chemicals has decreased the insect population on which the Skylarks depend upon during the breeding season.

Conservation

The Skylark is protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981). It is also a UK and Wiltshire BAP (Biodiversity Action Plan) species.



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