Calandra lark

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Calandra lark
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Alaudidae
Genus: Melanocorypha
Species: M. calandra
Binomial name
Melanocorypha calandra
(Linnaeus, 1766)
  • Alauda calandra
Eggs of Melanocorypha calandra MHNT

The calandra lark (Melanocorypha calandra) or European calandra-lark breeds in warm temperate countries around the Mediterranean and eastwards through Turkey into northern Iran and southern Russia. It is replaced further east by its relative, the bimaculated lark.

Taxonomy and systematics[edit]

The calandra lark was originally placed in the genus Alauda.[2] The current genus name, Melanocorypha is from Ancient Greek melas, "black", and koruphos a term used by ancient writers for a now unknown bird, but here confused with korudos, "lark". "Calandra"' derives ultimately from kalandros the Ancient Greek name for this bird.[3][4] The bimaculated lark is also sometimes termed as the calandra lark.[5]


Four subspecies are recognized:[6]

  • Western calandra lark (M. c. calandra) - (Linnaeus, 1766): Found in southern Europe and north-western Africa to Turkey (except south-central and south-eastern Turkey), Transcaucasia and north-western Iran
  • Eastern calandra lark (M. c. psammochroa) - Hartert, 1904: Found from northern Iraq and northern Iran to Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan
  • M. c. gaza - Meinertzhagen, R, 1919: Originally described as a subspecies of the bimaculated lark. Found from eastern Syria and south-eastern Turkey to south-western Iran
  • Levant calandra lark (M. c. hebraica) - Meinertzhagen, R, 1920: Found from south-central Turkey and north-western Syria to Israel and western Jordan


This is a large, robust lark, 17.5–20 cm long. It is an undistinguished-looking species on the ground, mainly streaked greyish brown above and white below, and with large black patches on the breast sides. It has a white supercilium.

In flight it shows short broad wings, which are dark below, and a short white-edged tail. The wing and tail patterns are distinctions from its more easterly relatives.

The song is like a slower version of that of the skylark.

Distribution and habitat[edit]

It is mainly resident in the west of its range, but Russian populations of this passerine bird are more migratory, moving further south in winter, as far as the Arabian peninsula and Egypt. It is a very rare vagrant to western Europe.

This is a bird of open cultivation and steppe. Its nest is on the ground, with 4–5 eggs being laid. Food is seeds supplemented with insects in the breeding season. It is gregarious outside the breeding season.

Behaviour and ecology[edit]

Parasites of the calandra lark include the chewing louse Ricinus vaderi, described from specimens collected in Azerbaijan.[7]

In culture[edit]

The song is considered so musical to human ears that the calandra lark was formerly a popular cagebird in its range.[8] It is mentioned in, for instance, the Tuscan proverb "Canta come una calandra", he or she sings like a lark,[9] and the Spanish ballad "Romance del prisionero", where its song is the only way the prisoner knows when day breaks.[10]


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Melanocorypha calandra". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ "Melanocorypha calandra - Avibase". Retrieved 2016-12-15. 
  3. ^ Jobling, James A (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. pp. 84, 247. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4. 
  4. ^ "Calandra". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  5. ^ "Melanocorypha bimaculata - Avibase". Retrieved 2016-12-14. 
  6. ^ "IOC World Bird List 6.4". IOC World Bird List Datasets. doi:10.14344/ 
  7. ^ Valan, Miroslav; Sychra, Oldrich; Literak, Ivan (2016). "Chewing lice of genus Ricinus (Phthiraptera, Ricinidae) deposited at the Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Saint Petersburg, Russia, with description of a new species". Parasite. 23: 7. doi:10.1051/parasite/2016007. ISSN 1776-1042. PMC 4763114Freely accessible. PMID 26902646.  open access publication – free to read
  8. ^ Kikkawa, Jiro (2003). "Larks". In Perrins, Christopher (editor). Firefly Encyclopedia of Birds. Firefly Books. pp. 578–583. ISBN 1-55297-777-3. 
  9. ^ Giusti, Giuseppe (1853). Raccolta di proverbi toscani. F. Monnier. p. 364. Retrieved 2008-06-21. 
  10. ^ Stanley, ed. (2004). Spanish Traditional Ballads/Romances Viejos Españoles. Translated by Applebaum. Courier Dover Publications. pp. 214–215. ISBN 0-486-42694-7. Retrieved 2008-06-21. 

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