White-winged lark (lat. Alauda leucoptera) relative of sparrows, small in size. Often called the steppe white-winged lark, because it lives in the steppes and has white stripes on the wings. Belongs to a species of the lark family.
Characteristic features of the lark are small size and color. Body length reaches 17-19 cm, wingspan up to 35 cm. On the back of the bird gray-brown plumage with dark brown speckles. The wings and tail are painted in a dark brown shade, and the top of the head and shoulders are reddish. There are reddish spots on the sides of the neck and rump.
Males and females are different. As a rule, females have a paler color, while the male looks noticeably larger.
The bird has a wide white stripe on its wings, due to which the name of the species was obtained. There are also white stripes on the sides of the tail, on the chest and on the bottom of the body.
In autumn, the integumentary feathers are dominated by buffy-whitish edges, they mask the chestnut shade, which is preserved only on the wing fold. Young birds are distinguished by variegated feathers: brownish below with light patches, white below with dark speckles. Wings with a noticeable chestnut-red tint.
The white stripe on the wings of birds is especially visible during flight. When the bird is sitting, brown feathers may slightly cover the stripe. Visually, the wings of larks seem narrow; during the flight, the bird can be confused with a sandpiper.
Lifestyle and behavior
The white-winged lark prefers to choose habitats that match the color of their plumage. They settle on sagebrush areas with small slopes and clay-chernozem areas with feather grass. Birds choose this area for their safety it is more difficult for predators to notice them.
They also settle on sandy soils, are found near the shores of fresh and salt lakes.
Where does it live
White-winged larks live in the steppe and semi-desert zone, stretching from the Lower Volga region to the western Altai, often found in the south near Lake Balkhash. It is a nomadic bird, partly migratory.
In winter, you can meet the white-winged lark in the south of the European part of Eurasia. Birds inhabit the steppe and forest-steppe zones of Ukraine, the Caucasus, Transcaucasia and Crimea.
What does it eat
The preferred food for larks is plant-based. They eat seeds of plants, pikulnik, sparrow, bird buckwheat, whelp, wild millet, wheat and oats. They can also peck at small pebbles and sand on rural paths to improve the digestive process after eating hard seeds.
Larks, starting in spring, feed on insects. Birds hunt only on the ground or catch insects crawling on tall grass. They feed on caterpillars, bugs, spiders, larvae, butterfly pupae.
White-winged larks quench their thirst with dew deposited on plants.
Steppe white-winged larks have a beautiful voice and make melodic sounds: high whistles, trills and murmurs. Rarely creaking sounds can be heard.
The lark sings songs while flying, slowly flapping its wings. Very often performs melodies on the ground or sitting low in a tree or on top of a sagebrush bush.
Flight and wintering
Flight to warmer places in white-winged larks begins in September. All individuals fly away young and adults. By the beginning of the flight, birds begin to molt, when the old plumage is replaced by a new one.
The reason for the flight is the lack of food. During this period, there are no insects, as they are immersed in suspended animation, and seeds cannot be obtained due to snow covering the fields. Birds form in small flocks to fly. The larks go back to the beginning of March.
It has long been believed that the arrival of larks indicates the beginning of spring, so you can prepare for field work.
Reproduction and offspring
With the onset of spring, larks return to their former nesting sites. The males arrive first they equip their homes. Birds make wide nests, 8-12 cm in diameter, 5-11 cm deep. The wall thickness is usually 1-2 cm.
Larks know how to camouflage a nest so it blends in with nature. Laid eggs are also characterized by camouflage coloration, as there are many dark spots on their surface.
Singing in white-winged larks begins in April and lasts until the end of July. Clutches begin in early May, usually 4-6 eggs, more often 5. Laying occurs twice per season. The female incubates the eggs for two weeks, after which completely blind chicks hatch with little or no fluff. Over time, they become covered with thick plumage.
An independent life in chicks occurs a month after birth. Before growing up, the lark is fed by both parents they bring various seeds and small pebbles from grains of sand to the nest.
Enemies in nature
Many birds of prey hunt for small steppe singers, especially at times when larks are carried away by songs. In the sky, they become easy prey for a falcon, a hobby, a hawk. The lark can only be saved if it falls down like a stone and hides in the grass.
Harriers can lie in wait for chicks they are silent and guard prey above the ground. They frighten birds that have barely taken a wing, forcing them to fly higher, blocking the way to the ground.
There are also many dangers on earth. In the fields and on the edges of the forest, weasels, snakes, hedgehogs and field mice, rats, ground squirrels and bandaging ferrets lie in wait for the lark. Foxes and large birds such as rooks and magpies can also attack birds they are able to steal an egg or chick.
White-winged larks have been known to sing one song for about 10-12 minutes, after which they rest. Also, with the help of a song, males attract females.
Another interesting fact about birdsong is that with the help of melodic sounds, larks indicate their territory.
White-winged larks are small birds with a characteristic appearance and unique sound. They are able to camouflage their nests well, thereby protecting themselves and their brood. Birds inhabit, as a rule, the steppe area, and in the cold season fly away to warmer climes.