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WILDLIFE OF NORTHERN ENGLAND

Birds of the World-  Larks,  featuring the Hoopoe Larks. 2016

Greater Hoopoe lark ,courtesy of Sumeet Moghe.  CC BY-SA 3.0 License.

Introduction

In this series birds of the world we review the species that occur within certain genera. This series looks at the species that occur throughout the world and are unfamiliar to the majority of us. Here we look at the genus Alaemon, a genus of the family Alaudidae within the order of birds known as the Passeriformes. This genus contains just two species, The Greater hoopoe Lark and the Lesser hoopoe lark. We commence with the Greater hoopoe Lark.

Greater Hoopoe Lark Alaemon alaudipes

The Greater Hoopoe Lark is a resident breeding bird of arid, desert and semi-desert regions of the Cape Verde Islands, across much of North Africa, through the Arabian peninsula, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

This species is capable of surviving in temperatures of up to fifty degrees C. It may look unremarkable when on the ground due to is camouflaged plumage colours. However, when on the wing it displays a striking wing pattern.

The plumage is typically pale sandy with creamy white under parts. The breast is off white with scattered black spots. The body tends to be elongated, the legs are relatively long and they have a down-curved grey coloured bill, which  is utilized probing into the sand.

The flight display , mentioned above, shows the white feathers spotted and barred with black. Both sexes are almost identical and difficult to differentiate in the field.  There are four sub-species each of which  tend to vary a little in size and colour.

Greater Hoope Lark perched on a bush. Courtesy of Chriko   CC BY-SA 3.0 License.

Diet and nesting habits of the Greater hoopoe.

The diet of this species includes Termites and Grasshoppers and other Invertebrate taken as they probe the sand with their beaks, they are also known to take snails.

The female will build her nest on the ground away from vegetation on gravelly places. in this case they will utilize cup-shaped hollows. She may also choose to locate the nest at the base or even the top of bushes. Those in bushes are composed of twigs. All nests are lined with soft plant material. The average clutch is made up of three eggs. The eggs are incubated by both parents for a period of twelve to thirteen days. The resulting stay close to their parents for a least a month or so after leaving the nest.

Lesser Hoopoe Lark, Alaemon hamertoni.

The Lesser hoopoe Lark  is sometimes referred to as 'Witherby's Lark, and is  large slender species between six and three quarters and eight and a quarter inches long#, however, it is shorter than the previous species.

The plumage is a uniform sandy colour with a relatively long bill and legs. The face is plain with a paler eye stripe.  The upper parts are a pale grey-brown. The flight feathers are slightly darker brown. Whitish under parts with indistinct mottling on the breast. Both sexes are similar.

The sub-species tertius is a more rufous tawny colour. The sub-species altera, paler and warmer sandy brown. They all lack the black and white wing patterning of the previous species. This species is endemic to Somalia. 

They are birds of dry, low land, grassland, particularly favouring tussock grass. They feed on insects foraging on the ground,running rapidly and covering large distances. They breed from May until June laying two to three eggs,laid in a cup-shaped depression in the ground.

There are no current conservation concerns. 

Japenese Skylark.   Courtesy of Alpsdake  CC BY-SA 3.0 License. Taken in Japan.

The genus Alauda

This genus contains four species of Lark, which occur across much of Europe,Asia and in the mountains of North Africa. The Raso Lark is endemic to the Islet of Raso in the Cape Verde Islands {see below}.

The Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis has been covered in detail on this site {See content banners above click on the relevant content banner and scroll down}. 

The Japanese Skylark, Alauda arvensis japonica, { pictured above} is usually considered to be a sub-species of Alauda arvensis, and it is endemic to Japan. It is a medium sized lark about { 17 cm } six and three quarter inches.It is a brown bird with mottled upper parts  and a short crest. It has a distinctive rufous shoulder triangle of lesser wing coverts,and rufous ear coverts,surrounded by a white supercilium, blending into a white half collar and white throat.

The bill is pale yellow with a dark tip,the feet are orange/red. It is distinguished from the Eurasian Skylark by the rufous shoulder colouring and from the Oriental Skylark by its larger size,whiter trailing edge to the wings and its call which is similar to that of the Eurasian Skylark. 

It is a bird of grassland,shrub-land,shoreline,marine inter-tidal or in wetlands. Breeding mainly in grassland. The behaviour of this species mirrors that of the Eurasian Skylark. During the winter they may occur in large flocks wintering besides estuaries or in cultivated land, where they feed on seed and any available insects.

Three to four eggs are laid which are incubated for eleven to twelve days. The young are ready to fledge in a further nine to tn days. They keep to cover in the well hidden nest. There may be two or even three broods per season. The song is delivered from high in the sky. There are no current conservation concerns. 

Oriental Skylark. Courtesy of J.M.Garg.  CC BY-SA 3.0 License. Taken at Kolleru Andhra, Pradesh India.

The Oriental Skylark. 

The Oriental Skylark is also referred to as the Small Skylark,and has been allocated the scientific name of Alauda gulgula. This Skylark species is found on the Indian Sub-continent and in south east Asia. It is a bird of grassland often encountered near bodies of water. They feed on a diet of seed and insects.

This species is about 16 cm { seven inches} long. The upper parts are a brown colour streaked darker. The under parts being lighter and less streaked. They have a short crest and a pale eye stripe,running back towards the back of the head. The outer tail feathers are white. Both sexes are similar.

The song is delivered from the sky. They are usually solitary or occur in loose flocks. They run and crouch in grassland when disturbed. There are eight sub-species that occur over a wide range of countries. Examples include Aluda gugula ihamarum,which occurs in the Pamir mountains and the western Himalayas. Alauda gugula weigolgi, that occurs in eastern China and Alauda gugula gugula  that occurs in eastern India to Sri lankaand Indo-China.

Raso Lark. Courtesy of Justin Welbergen { at the English Wikipedia} CC BY-SA 3.0 License

Raso Lark. Alauda razae

This species as previously mentioned is endemic and confined to the Roso Islet in the Cape Verde Islands { about three hundred and fifty miles } off the coast of Western Africa. Because of its remote and highly restricted range it is the least known of the genus.  It is currently listed as being Critically Endangered by the IUCN { International Union for the Conservation of Nature}. 

It is known to inhabit the highly acrid terrain. This species feeds by digging in the ground where it unearths insect larvae and the bulbs of the nutsedge. They also feed on seeds,butterflies, moths and when available grasshoppers.

This species varies in size from 14 -18 cm {five and a half to eight inches}, the males being a little larger than the females. The upper plumage is generally composed of black and brown streaking the streaks being generally short. The under parts are much paler, they also have an erectile crest. The bill is thick and robust and those of the male are slightly larger than those of the female.  In flight they display broad wings and a short tail. 

Nest and Eggs.   The female will collect dry grass to build her nest which the male will defend from intruders. The female will deposit three eggs, usually a day apart and the incubation commences after the last egg is laid. She only incubates the eggs for short periods of time then leaves to find food. Despite the males attempts to defend the nest many eggs and chicks are eaten by the Giant Gheko. These large lizards are a constant threat to all ground nesting birds.

Raso Lark Nest and Eggs. Courtesy of Justin Welbergen { at the English Wikipedia} CC BY-SA 3.0 License.

Greater Hoopoe Lark.  Courtesy of Tomas Tello. Standard YouTube License.

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