Shore Lark

Shore Lark

Key facts

Scientific name: Eremophila alpestris
Status: Scarce winter visitor, passage migrant, occasional breeder

Wintering birds: 74 birds

Conservation status: Amber

Family: Larks

Length: 14 – 17 cm
Wingspan: 30 – 35 cm
Weight: 35 – 45 g

Description

Male shore larks in breeding plumage have a rusty-brown upper mantle, rump, and uppertail coverts with a pale pink tinge. The rest of the upperparts are grey with darker streaks. The tail is black with pale brown central rectrices and white edges on the outer feathers.

The undperparts are white with a pink or rufous wash on the sides of the breast and rear flank. There is a conspicuous black breast band. The undertail feathers are black and the flight feathers are pale grey.

On the head, the central crown is rusty-brown, and the forehead, chin, throat, ear coverts and supercilium are yellow. There are elongated lateral black tufts on the crown forming horns, and there is a black mask on the face that extends from the lores and below the eyes down to the cheeks. The bill is dark grey, the eyes are dark brown, and the legs and feet are black.

In non-breeding plumage shore larks have a duller head pattern with pale fringes on the feathers, and the horns are shorter.

Female shore larks are smaller and duller than males. The face is grey and the breast band is narrower.

Juveniles have heavy black and white spots on the upperparts and head. The throat and sides of the lower neck are white, and the breast band is mottled.

Breeding

Shore larks breed from late May to mid July. They are monogamous and produce 1 brood a season. They nest on the ground, usually in sparse vegetation, as well as coastal dunes, sandy beaches, fields, and wetlands.

The female builds the nest which in a saucer-shaped excavated cavity or natural depression. It is a cup-shaped structure made from dried grasses, lined with feathers, hair, plant down, and other soft materials. Stones, bark, and animal dung may be placed around the nest to offer it some protection.

Shore larks lay 2-5 smooth, glossy, pale green or grey eggs with fine brown markings, which are incubated by the female alone for 11-12 days. Chicks are fed by both parents and leave the nest at 9-12 days after hatching and can fly at 16-18 days.

Feeding

In the summer, shore larks eat mainly invertebrates including grasshoppers, beetles, flies, and larvae. During winter they feed mainly on grass seeds. They forage on the ground sometimes in flocks and peck and dig as they walk, or pursue prey by running.

Shore Lark

Where to see them

Shore larks can be seen in the UK from October to April. They are found on the east coast in dunes although may sometimes venture into nearby fields.

Listen

Lars Edenius/xeno-canto

Did you know?

In North America, the nests of shore larks can be parasitised by the brown-headed cowbird.

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