Black Lark (Melanocorypha yeltoniensis)

Black Lark

[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Alaudidae | [latin] Melanocorypha yeltoniensis | [UK] Black Lark | [FR] Alouette noire | [DE] Mohrenlerche | [ES] Calandria Negra | [NL] Zwarte Leeuwerik


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Ammomanes yeltoniensis
Melanocorypha yeltoniensis EU c

Physical charateristics

Largest of genus in west Palearctic, ( exceeding Calandra Lark in average wing and tail length. Large, robust lark, of similar form to Calandra Lark except for slightly less deep-based bill. ( essentially black, except for yellow-horn bill and wide off-white or buff tips to head- and body-feathers in autumn and winter. ) much less distinctive, lacking uniformity of ( but extensively black-brown above and on flanks, with pale rump. Juvenile even less distinctive but displays adult?s diagnostic dark under wing-coverts.

wingspan min.: 34 cm wingspan max.: 41 cm
size min.: 19 cm size max.: 21 cm
incubation min.: 15 days incubation max.: 16 days
fledging min.: 0 days fledging max.: 16 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 4  
      eggs max.: 7  


Eurasia : Central. Breeds in SW Russia and N Kazakhstan from just W of R Volga E to L Zaysan, and S to N shores of Caspian Sea, Aral Sea and just N of L Balkhash. Winters S to Black Sea region, Caucasus, N Iran, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and S Kazakhstan.


In middle continental latitudes, concentrated in steppe zone of warm dry summers and snowy winters, on broad open plains and rolling country, where wormwood Artemisia (especially) or feather-grass Stipa are dominant, with plenty of short grass; sometimes on saline or alkaline soils, and on clay, usually in neighbourhood of water, including freshwater or saline lakes. In winter, spends most time in areas where snow thinnest, either through wind or artificial action; thus will forage on roads, follow herds of horses, or even straggle into human settlements.


Breeding period in Transvolga: first eggs laid late March. Orenburg region: first eggs laid late April. Breeding period in Kazakhstan: first eggs late April, latest clutch beginning of August. Nest is built on ground in shelter of tussock. Nest: shallow depression lined with grass stems and other vegetation. The eggs are sub-elliptical, smooth and glossy. Pale blue or olive-green with light brown, often olive, mottling and blotching, coalescing at broad end. Clutch: 4-7 incubated for 15-16 days. (Fledging period not recorded.)

Feeding habits

Insects and seeds. Digs through snow to reach food. In loose snow, makes distinctive channels 15-20 cm long, probably by moving snow with head and breast. If necessary, digs down up to 8 cm, then makes side tunnels of c. 10-12 cm to reach seeds. In late winter, especially, gathers by roads or around animal herds to feed on disturbed ground. Will drink saline water.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Melanocorypha yeltoniensis breeds in the steppe zone of south-eastern European
Russia, which accounts for less than a quarter of its global breeding range. Its
European breeding population is small (as few as 4,000 pairs), and underwent a
large decline between 1970-1990. The species continued to decline in Europe during
1990-2000, undergoing a very large decline (>50%) overall. Consequently, it is
evaluated as Endangered.
Black Lark status Least Concern


Dispersive and perhaps nomadic, mainly within FSU. Throughout breeding range, present all winter in roaming flocks (which may include birds from more distant breeding areas). Birds wander beyond breeding range in winter (sometimes in large numbers), extent probably varying from year to year according to severity of weather. Adult males predominate in winter in breeding areas, almost exclusively so in colder seasons, which suggests that females and young birds tend to disperse furthest.

Distribution map

Black Lark distribution range map

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