Short-toed Lark (Calandrella brachydactyla)

Short-toed Lark

[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Alaudidae | [latin] Calandrella brachydactyla | [UK] Short-toed Lark | [FR] Calandrelle | [DE] Kurzzehen-Lerche | [ES] Terrera comun | [NL] Kortteenleeuwerik


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range

Physical charateristics

Small lark, with shorter bill, no crest and rather more compact form.
Pale, cryptic coloration and lacking streaks on chest. Within west Palearctic, color variable with western birds essentially warm sandy buff above and eastern ones pale grey-ochre.
Upperparts have typical lark pattern. Underparts usually little-marked except for buff breast and sometimes prominent small dark patch at shoulder. Tertials almost overlap tips of primaries, unlike Lesser Short-toed Lark. Sexes similar, no seasonal variation.

Listen to the sound of Short-toed Lark

[audio: Lark.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 25 cm wingspan max.: 30 cm
size min.: 13 cm size max.: 14 cm
incubation min.: 13 days incubation max.: 14 days
fledging min.: 12 days fledging max.: 14 days
broods: 2   eggs min.: 3  
      eggs max.: 5  


Eurasia : Central, South


Dry areas with sparse and low vegetation cover, on level or undulating terrain, with sandy or stony soils. Breeds mostly in fallow lands in Mediterranean Basin, but also dry pastures, tobacco fields, dirt tracks and olive groves; in Russia also more densely covered pastures, but absent in true steppe; sometimes in semi-arid areas, but avoids true desert. Mainly lowlands; to 1500 m in Tunisia. Occurs in semi-arid areas and farmland in non-breeding areas.


Lays in May-July in South West Europe and from mid-April in South East Europe. From early April in North Africa and Israel. Male song flight typically at heights of about 30-50 meter, bouncing in a circling but rather meandering path, for about 3-5 minutes each flight. Nest built by female, of grasses, rootlets and similar vegetation, lined with softer material, internal diameter 6 cm, placed in shallow scrape on ground, usually beside shrub or grass tuft, often with small rampart of sticks or stones. Two broods per season. Clutch size varies from 2-5 eggs, rarely 6, replacement laid if first clutch lost. incubation by female alone, beginning with last egg, period 11-13 days; chicks fed and cared for by both sexes, nestling period 9-12 days, mostly 8-10 days, fledging 12-15 days; dependence period of fledglings 1-3 weeks, shorter for first broods. Nest losses often very high, up to c. 80%; snakes a major predator, and some nests also destroyed by trampling by livestock. First breeding at 1 year.

Feeding habits

Mainly invertebrates during spring, also seeds and green parts of plants in other seasons. Invertebrate food very diverse, variable among areas, chiefly beetles (Coleoptera), ants, bugs (Hemiptera) and snails; seeds mostly of weedy forbs (Polygonum, Amaranthus), also cereal grain. Nestlings fed solely with invertebrates; fledglings take more green material than do adults. Forages on ground, singly or in small or large flocks. Searches slowly, picks items from ground surface.


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 extremely 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.
This lark has a wide distribution from the Mediterranean regions of Europe and North Africa to central Asia. Apart from its Greek populations, which are partly sedentary, it is a migratory bird wintering in the Sahel region of Africa. The total European population is estimated at 2.3-3.6 millions of breeding pairs, 97% of which inhabit the Iberian Peninsula. Everywhere this species is undergoing a decline following habitat loss by agricultural intensification
Short-toed Lark status Least Concern


Mostly migratory; only partially migratory in South of Palearctic range and sedentary in Transcaucasia. Those from West & Central parts of range winter mainly in sub-Saharan Africa and Red Sea Basin, also in South West Asia; East populations migrate mostly to South & South East parts of Asia. Highly gregarious on wintering grounds, occurring in flocks of hundreds or thousands. Autumn departure from mid-August through to September/October, passage on broad front. Return begins late January, but migration later in East, and arrival on breeding grounds in North of range not until April-May. Generally common on passage in North Africa, abundant in Egypt, and common to fairly common in Middle East and Arabian Peninsula. in South Israel, up to 14,000 per day recorded in autumn and flock of circa 4000 in April. Vagrants regularly West to Scandinavia and British Isles, and recorded on Madeira and Canary Islands, also North to Iceland and regularly Finland; rare but annual in Japan.

Distribution map

Short-toed Lark distribution range map

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