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Shore lark

The shore lark (Eremophila alpestris) breeds in the high Arctic but moves south in the winter, which is when it can be seen on the east coast of England between October/November and March. Other populations are found in south-east Europe, Asia and North America. 

At 14-17 cm (7 inches) the shore lark is smaller than the skylark. It has a pinkish-brown streaked back, pale underparts, a black and yellow face and a black throat. Adult males have a black band on the forehead that extends to two small “horns” on the crown. Female shore larks have less contrast in their markings but are otherwise similar in appearance. Both sexes are poorly marked in autumn and winter.

Shore larks feed on open ground, such as in salt marshes, shuffling along or making small hops. In summer food consists of insects and seeds, but in winter it is mainly seeds. Preferred insect food is springtails, flies and beetles. Seed food is mainly from sedges, docks, grasses and grains.

Shore larks nest on the ground, in a depression made by the female in the open amongst short vegetation. 2-4 eggs are incubated by the female for 10 or 11 days. When the young birds hatch they are cared for and fed by both parent birds. They leave the nest at 9-12 days but do not fly until 16-18 days. A second brood can be raised.

Numbers of wintering shore larks in Britain have increased in recent years, with the current total somewhere between 200 and 300 individuals. It is a specially protected species in Great Britain.

(The photo has been taken from a copyright-free source)

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