|Skylark (Alauda arvensis)|
Larks are passerine birds of the family Alaudidae. All species occur in the Old World, and in northern and eastern Australia; only one, the Shore Lark, has spread to North America, where it is called the Horned Lark. Habitats vary widely, but many species live in dry regions.
Larks are small to medium-sized birds, 12 to 24 cm (5 to 8 inches) in length and 15 to 75 grams (0.5 to 2.6 ounces) in weight (Kikkawa 2003).
They have more elaborate calls than most birds, and often extravagant songs given in display flight (Kikkawa 2003). These melodious sounds (to human ears), combined with a willingness to expand into anthropogenic habitats — as long as these are not too intensively managed — have ensured larks a prominent place in literature and music, especially the Skylark in northern Europe and the Crested Lark and Calandra Lark in southern Europe.
With these song flights, males defend their breeding territories and attract mates. Most species build nests on the ground, usually cups of dead grass, but in some species more complicated and partly domed. A few desert species nest very low in bushes, perhaps so circulating air can cool the nest. Larks' eggs are usually speckled, and clutch sizes range from 2 (especially in species of the driest deserts) to 6 (in species of temperate regions). Larks incubate for 11 to 16 days (Kikkawa 2003).
Like many ground birds, most lark species have long hind claws, which are thought to provide stability while standing. Most have streaked brown plumage, some boldly marked with black or white. Their dull appearance camouflages them on the ground, especially when on the nest. They feed on insects and seeds; though adults of most species eat seeds primarily, all species feed their young insects for at least the first week after hatching. Many species dig with their bills to uncover food. Some larks have heavy bills (reaching an extreme in the Thick-billed Lark) for cracking seeds open, while others have long, down-curved bills, which are especially suitable for digging (Kikkawa 2003).
Larks are the only passerines that lose all their feathers in their first moult (in all species whose first moult is known). This may result from the poor quality of the chicks' feathers, which in turn may result from the benefits to the parents of switching the young to a lower-quality diet (seeds), which requires less work from the parents (Kikkawa 2003).
In many respects, including long tertial feathers, larks resemble other ground birds such as pipits. However, in larks the tarsus (the lowest leg bone, connected to the toes) has only one set of scales on the rear surface, which is rounded. Pipits and all other songbirds have two plates of scales on the rear surface, which meet at a protruding rear edge (Ridgway 1907).
Larks are a well-defined family, partly because of the shape of their tarsus (Ridgway 1907). They were long placed at or near the beginning of the songbirds or oscines (now often called Passeri), just after the suboscines and before the swallows, for example in the American Ornithologists' Union's first check-list (American Ornithologists' Union 1886, according to Patterson 2002). Some authorities, such as the British Ornithologists' Union (Dudley et al. 2006) and the Handbook of the Birds of the World, adhere to that placement. However, many other classifications follow the Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy in placing the larks in a large oscine subgroup Passerida (which excludes crows, shrikes and their allies, vireos, and many groups characteristic of Australia and southeastern Asia). For instance, the American Ornithologists' Union places larks just after the crows, shrikes, and vireos. At a finer level of detail, some now place the larks at the beginning of a superfamily Sylvioidea with the swallows, various "Old World warbler" and "babbler" groups, and others (Barker et al. 2002, Alström et al. 2006).
Species in taxonomic order
- Genus: Mirafra
- Monotonous Lark, Mirafra passerina
- Singing Bushlark, Mirafra cantillans
- Australasian Bushlark, Mirafra javanica
- Latakoo Lark, Mirafra cheniana
- White-tailed Lark, Mirafra albicauda
- Madagascar Lark, Mirafra hova
- Kordofan Lark, Mirafra cordofanica
- Williams's Lark, Mirafra williamsi
- Friedmann's Lark, Mirafra pulpa
- Red-winged Lark, Mirafra hypermetra
- Somali Long-billed Lark, Mirafra somalica
- Ash's Lark, Mirafra ashi
- Angola Lark, Mirafra angolensis
- Rufous-naped Lark, Mirafra africana
- Flappet Lark, Mirafra rufocinnamomea
- Clapper Lark, Mirafra apiata
- Collared Lark, Mirafra collaris
- Indian Bushlark or Red-winged Bushlark, Mirafra erythroptera
- Gillett's Lark, Mirafra gilletti
- Fawn-colored Lark, Mirafra africanoides (sometimes placed in Calendulauda)
- Rufous-winged Bushlark, Mirafra assamica
- Jerdon's Bushlark Mirafra affinis
- Rusty Lark, Mirafra rufa
- Pink-breasted Lark, Mirafra poecilosterna (sometimes placed in Calendulauda)
- Degodi Lark, Mirafra degodiensis
- Sabota Lark, Mirafra sabota(sometimes placed in Calendulauda)
- Genus: Pinarocorys
- Genus: Heteromirafra
- Genus: Certhilauda
- Cape Lark, Certhilauda curvirostris
- Algulhas Long-billed Lark, Certhilauda brevirostris
- Eastern Long-billed Lark, Certhilauda semitorquata
- Karoo Long-billed Lark, Certhilauda subcoronata
- Benguela Lark, Certhilauda benguelensis
- Short-clawed Lark, Certhilauda chuana
- Dune Lark, Certhilauda erythrochlamys
- Karoo Lark, Certhilauda albescens
- Barlow's Lark, Certhilauda barlowi
- Ferruginous Lark, Certhilauda burra
- Genus: Chersomanes
- Spike-heeled Lark, Chersomanes albofasciata
- Genus: Eremopterix
- Black-eared Sparrow-lark, Eremopterix australis
- Chestnut-backed Sparrow-lark, Eremopterix leucotis
- Black-crowned Sparrow-lark, Eremopterix nigriceps
- Grey-backed Sparrow-lark, Eremopterix verticalis
- Chestnut-headed Sparrow-lark, Eremopterix signata
- Fischer's Sparrow-lark, Eremopterix leucopareia
- Ashy-crowned Sparrow-lark, Eremopterix grisea
- Genus: Ammomanes
- Genus: Alaemon
- Genus: Ramphocoris
- Thick-billed Lark, Ramphocoris clotbey
- Genus: Melanocorypha
- Genus: Calandrella
- Greater Short-toed Lark, Calandrella brachydactyla
- Blanford's Lark, Calandrella blanfordi
- Hume's Lark, Calandrella acutirostris
- Lesser Short-toed Lark, Calandrella rufescens
- Red-capped Lark, Calandrella cinerea
- Asian Short-toed Lark, Calandrella cheleensis
- Sand Lark, Calandrella raytal
- Somali Short-toed Lark, Calandrella somalica
- Genus: Spizocorys
- Genus: Eremalauda
- Genus: Chersophilus
- Dupont's Lark, Chersophilus duponti
- Genus: Galerida
- Genus: Pseudalaemon
- Short-tailed Lark, Pseudalaemon fremantlii
- Genus: Lullula
- Wood Lark, Lullula arborea
- Genus: Alauda
- Genus: Eremophila
- Lark Bunting
- Lark Sparrow
- Magpie-lark (Neither a lark nor a magpie, but a giant Monarch flycatcher)
- Titlark, a synonym for Meadow Pipit
- Alström, Per; Ericson, Per G.P.; Olsson, Urban; Sundberg, Per (February 2006). "Phylogeny and classification of the avian superfamily Sylvioidea". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 38 (2): 381–397. PMID 16054402. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2005.05.015. Cite uses deprecated parameter
- The American Ornithologists' Union (June, 1886). "The American Ornithologists' Union Check-List of North American Birds". The American Naturalist. 20 (6): 539. doi:10.1086/274272. Check date values in:
- "Check-list of North American Birds". American Ornithologists' Union. 1998–2006. Archived from the original on 2008-03-15. Retrieved 2008-06-24.
- Barker, F. Keith; Barrowclough, George F.; Groth, Jeff G. (2002). "A phylogenetic hypothesis for passerine birds: taxonomic and biogeographic implications of an analysis of nuclear DNA sequence data" (pdf). Proc. R. Soc. B. 269 (1488): 295–308. PMC . PMID 11839199. doi:10.1098/rspb.2001.1883. Retrieved 2008-06-24. Cite uses deprecated parameter
- Dudley, Steve P.; Gee, Mike; Kehoe, Chris; Melling, Tim M.; THE BRITISH ORNITHOLOGISTS' UNION RECORDS COMMITTEE (BOURC) (2006). "The British List: A Checklist of Birds of Britain (7th edition)". Ibis. 148 (3): 526–563. doi:10.1111/j.1474-919X.2006.00603.x. Retrieved 2008-06-24. Cite uses deprecated parameter
- Kikkawa, Jiro (2003). "Larks". In Perrins, Christopher (ed.). Firefly Encyclopedia of Birds. Firefly Books. pp. 578–583. ISBN 1-55297-777-3.
- Patterson, Bob (2002). "The History of North American Bird Names in the American Ornithologists' Union Checklists 1886 - 2000". Archived from the original on 2003-09-05. Retrieved 2008-06-24.
- Ridgway, Robert (1907). "The Birds of North and Middle America, Part IV". Bulletin of the United States National Museum. 50: 289–290. Retrieved 2008-06-25.
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- Lark videos on the Internet Bird Collection
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