British wildlife recordings
Alauda arvensis : Skylark - Alaudidae
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Marden Common, Dartmoor, Devon: OS Grid Reference(258500,80500)
Skylark, Alauda arvensis
The song of the male skylark, recorded on Marden Common, Devon. This heavily-streaked, ground-dwelling brown bird could be described as nondescript, but the wonderful towering song of the skylark is far from it, remaining the quintessential sound of an early British summer. Skylarks are resident birds, remaining in Britain all year around, although northern populations move away from breeding sites in winter. In summer, the skylark chooses open grassland, heath, and coastal marshes which provide a variety of insects, molluscs, and spiders for food. But in winter, they aggregate in communal flocks in arable and stubble fields that are usually devoid of hedges, to feed on the seeds of plants such as nettles and dock. The male's song flight begins low down whilst rising steeply until it hangs high in the air above its territory, and the long, liquid warble can be heard from quite a distance. The nest is a shallow grass-lined depression and in a successful year a pair of skylarks will raise three broods. As recently as the early 1970s this was a common bird but the current estimated breeding population in Britain has plummeted by 50% to 1,100,000 pairs. This huge drop is thought to be a response to a number of changes in modern agricultural practices.