Greater short-toed lark

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Greater short-toed lark
Calandrella brachydactyla1.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Alaudidae
Genus: Calandrella
Species: C. brachydactyla
Binomial name
Calandrella brachydactyla
(Leisler, 1814)

The greater short-toed lark (Calandrella brachydactyla) or sometimes just short-toed lark (but see below) is a small passerine bird. The current scientific name is from Ancient Greek. The genus name, Calandrella, is a diminutive of kalandros, the calandra lark, and brachydactila is from brakhus, "short", and daktulos, "toe".[2]

It breeds in southern Europe, north-west Africa, and across temperate Asia from Turkey and southern Russia to Mongolia. It is sometimes considered conspecific with Calandrella cinerea.[3][4] During migration they form large flocks that fly in synchrony[clarification needed] and at other times they form loose flocks.


Greater Short-toed Lark

Several subspecies have been named but there is considerable geneflow and the species itself forms part of a larger complex. This is a small pale lark, smaller than the skylark. It is dark-streaked greyish-brown above, and white below, and has a strong pointed bill that is pinkish with a grey culmen. It has a pale supercilium, dark patches on each side of its neck and a dark tail. Some birds in the west of the range have a rufous crown. The sexes are similar. Subspecies longipennis is paler than dukhunensis which also has a shorter bill.[3] In winter they fly in large and compact flocks that swing in synchrony.[5] Care must be taken to distinguish this species from other similar Calandrella larks, such as the lesser short-toed lark, Calandrella rufescens.

The nominate form breeds in Europe (Iberia, France, Italy, the Balkans and Romania) and winters in Africa. Subspecies hungarica breeds in the eastern parts of Europe while rubiginosa breeds in north-western Africa. Subspecies hermonensis (sometimes including woltersi) breeds in Turkey, Syria and Egypt. Subspecies artemisiana (considered by some to be synonymous with longipennis[6]) breeds in Asia Minor and winters in southern west Asia. Subspecies longipennis breeds in Ukraine, Mongolia and Manchuria and winters in South Asia mainly in the drier zone of north-western India while dukhunensis breeds on the Tibetan plateau and winters mainly in peninsular India.[5]

The song varies between a dry twittering and a more varied and imitative melody. Flocks will often fly together to water in the mornings at favourite spots. In the evenings they roost in open ground, with each bird squatting in a small depression made in the soil.[7]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Subspecies dukhunensis on passage in Kolkata, India
Calandrella brachydactyla - MHNT

All but some southernmost populations are migratory, wintering south to the southern edge of the Sahara and India. This species is a fairly common wanderer to northern and western Europe in spring and autumn.[8] Populations breeding in the Iberian Peninsula winter south of the Sahara in Africa. Here they prefer crop land and dry pastures with short shrubs while the syntopic lesser short-toed larks (Calandrella rufescens) prefer drier areas.[9]

This is a common bird of dry open country and cultivation. It nests on the ground, laying two to three eggs. Its food is seeds and insects, the latter especially in the breeding season.

In Colonial India, they were hunted for food as ortolans.[5]

They visit parts of South Asia in large flocks during winter and are sometimes attracted to short grass areas along aerodromes and become a bird strike risk to aircraft.[10]


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Calandrella brachydactyla". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Jobling, James A (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. pp. 76, 84. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4. 
  3. ^ a b Rasmussen, PC; JC Anderton (2005). Birds of South Asia: The Ripley Guide. 2. Smithsonian Institution & Lynx edicions. p. 303. 
  4. ^ Vaurie, Charles (1951). "A study of Asiatic larks.". Bulletin of the AMNH. 97: 435–526. hdl:2246/952. 
  5. ^ a b c Whistler, Hugh (1949). Popular Handbook of Indian Birds. 4th edition. Gurney and Jackson, London. p. 256. 
  6. ^ Dickinson, E.C.; R.W.R.J. Dekker (2001). "Systematic notes on Asian birds. 11. A preliminary review of the Alaudidae." (PDF). Zool. Verh. Leiden. 335: 61–84. 
  7. ^ Ali, S; S D Ripley (1986). Handbook of the birds of India and Pakistan. 5 (2 ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 19–22. 
  8. ^ Tomek, T., & Bocheński, Z. (2005). "Weichselian and Holocene bird remains from Komarowa Cave, Central Poland." (PDF). Acta zoologica cracoviensia. 48A (1–2): 43–65. doi:10.3409/173491505783995743. 
  9. ^ Suarez, Francisco; Vincente Garza; Manuel B Morales (2002). "Habitat use of two sibling species, the Short-toed Calandrella brachydactyla and the Lesser Short-toed C. rufescens Larks in mainland Spain" (PDF). Ardeola. 49 (2): 259–272. 
  10. ^ Mahesh, SS (2009). "Management of Greater Short-toed Larks Calandrella brachydactyla in Indian aerodromes.". Indian Birds. 5 (1): 2–6. 

External links[edit]