The Field or Skylark (Alauda arvensis)

The Field or Skylark (Alauda arvensis), Fig. 36, is included in the family Fringillidae and forms, with other species, the subfamily Alaudinae, which is recognized by the straight, short, conical bill, and characterized by the great length and straightness of the claw of the hind toe. Of a light brown colour with darker markings and tinted white beneath, the skylark is familiar to every one in the country as thoroughly terrestrial in habits, running along the ground, and soaring in the air pouring forth its melodious song. It begins to sing when it rises from the ground to commence its morning flight, the hour of three in the morning being the period when the lark generally ascends in summer.

The notes, at first feeble and interrupted, swell out to their full tone as the songster ascends, and long after the bird has passed from the range of vision, the full notes of the melody are audible to the ear of the observer.

The Field or Skylark.

Fig. 36. - The Field or Skylark.

In early spring the skylark begins its song, which it continues throughout the summer and far into the autumn. The pairing time is during the month of April. The nest is constructed of grasses and lies on the ground, often in the print of a horse's foot, and most frequently under the shelter of a tuft of grass or earthy clod. The eggs are four or five in number, greenish white and spotted thickly with brown, the period of incubation being about a fortnight, and two broods being produced in the year, one in May and the other in July or August. The young are reared chiefly upon insect larvae including caterpillars. The food of the adults comprise worms, slugs, insects - their larvae and pupae, grass and other herbage, seeds and grain, chiefly in stubbles, and late or autumn sown corn not covered with earth. The larks are snared during the autumn and winter when they assemble in flocks for the purpose of feeding on stubble. The mode of catching the larks is generally by means of a number of horsehair noozes attached to a long line. Food, chiefly screenings, of winnowed corn, is scattered among the nooses, and the larks, in reaching the food, get their limbs entangled in the horsehair, and either strangle themselves, or are held until the fowler comes to take them out.

Dunstable is the most celebrated place for them, as many as 4,000 dozen having been caught near that town alone in one year.

The Woodlark (Alauda Arborea)

The Woodlark (Alauda arborea) is smaller than the skylark and less distinct in its colours. It perches upon trees, and is chiefly found in fields near the borders of woods. Its flight is much less extensive and powerful than that of the skylark, and it sings during the night. The nest is built on the ground, generally under a sheltering bush. The eggs are five in number, of a dusky colour, spotted with deep brown spots. Two broods are reared annually. The woodlark is much less common than the skylark, its food being similar to that of the latter.