The skylark is a small brown bird. It is streaky brown with a small crest, which can be raised when the bird is excited or alarmed, and a white-sided tail. The wings also have a white rear edge, visible in flight.
It lives off mostly insects, otherwise cereal grain and weed seeds, also shoots. It is famous for its fluttering, hovering flight, and Its recent and dramatic population declines make it a Red List species.
Found everywhere in the UK. The Skylark enjoys open countryside, from lowland farmland to upland moorland. Natural camouflage, make it difficult to detect on the ground, but once airborne it becomes easy to see and hear. The Skylark is probably the best example of how farming has threatened its survival, and with recent best practice, can live in harmony with nature. In the UK, Skylark numbers have declined massively over the last 30 years.
The RSPB have shown that this decline is mainly due to changes in farming practices and only partly due to pesticides. In the past cereals were planted in the spring, grown through the summer and harvested in the early autumn. Cereals are now planted in the autumn, grown through the winter and are harvested in the early summer. The winter grown fields are much too dense in summer for the Skylark to be able to walk and run between the wheat stems to find its food.
Farmers are now encouraged by DEFRA to plant in such a way to encourage Skylark population. The farmers are planting seeds with a gap in the field of about 5 or 10 meters, this allows the birds to hunt insects, and build their nests amongst the ground covering vegetation.
Studies by the RSPB, have shown increases in the fields where this practice has been adopted. DEFRA recognize the importance of this, and the farmers can benefit from financial support from the DEFRA stewardship scheme.
Number in Britain
Conservation Status UK
Red (depleting in Europe too)
Status in UK
Resident Breeder, Passage/Winter Visitor
Moorland, arable farmland and bog
Number of broods
1 to 4
Age at First Breeding
Maximum Recorded Age
9 years, 0 months