Skylark (Alauda arvensis)

The Skylark, or as it is scientifically known, Alauda arvensis, is a small greyish-brown passerine bird species with streaks all over its upper body and a pure white belly. They are about 16 to 18 cm long with the male lark having broader wings than that of the female for more efficient hovering. Like other larks, the skylark is not a spectacular looking bird but is rather a dull species with a short, stout crest on their heads, which they can lower or raise, and stout legs. A lot of their time is spent foraging for food on the ground as they eat mainly seeds and insects especially in the breeding season.

When the skylark takes flight it sings a beautiful song, which can be clearly heard by all, although it can be difficult to see him as he flies 50 to 100 m above the ground, staying in one spot. The song lasts for about 2 to 3 minutes but lasts longer as the season changes and it gets later in the year. When they fly away from you, you can see their short broad wings and short tail because of the white tail and edges of the wings.

The Skylark breeds mainly throughout Britain and Europe, in the mountains of North Africa and in certain parts of Asia. The eastern populations are a more migratory type bird, moving south for the winter. Even the western populations will move to the coast and lowlands for the winter. The skylark enjoys open areas like cultivated land, heath land and meadows. The skylark also uses the ground to make a grass nest, which it hides in between the foliage making it difficult to find. The female will then lay between 3 to 6 eggs during June and may have a second and third brood later on in the year. The eggs are an off-white with brownish-purple spots near the large end of the egg.

In the last 30 years the UK skylarks have decreased in numbers to the point of there being only 10% of what was recorded three decades ago. This large decline in the population seems to be connected to changing farming practices more than because of the pesticides used. Before cereals were planted in spring, grown through the summer months and harvested in early autumn but now that has changed, which has made it harder for the skylark to find food.