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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.


Quick Facts

Number in Britain
3.5 million

Conservation Status UK
Red (depleting in Europe too)

Status in UK
Resident Breeder, Passage/Winter Visitor

18 cm



Moorland, arable farmland and bog

First Record
8th Century

Egg Size
23x17 mm

Egg Weight
3.3 g

Clutch Size
3-4 eggs

13-14 days

11-16 days

Number of broods
1 to 4

Age at First Breeding
1 year

Typical Lifespan
2 years

Maximum Recorded Age
9 years, 0 months

  • The song of the Skylark is the first to be heard in the dawn chorus as they start singing before first light.
  • They sing throughout the year, but not so often between November – January.
  • The Skylark has a reputation as one of the best songsters in the world.
  • The song is intricate, fast, very erratic and conveyed within a limited frequency range.
  • Thirty minute performances have been known, but the average is length is two minutes.
  • Most birds sing from between 50m and 200m.
  • It has long since been regarded as a delicacy since the time of Edward I. The price of Skylarks has been recorded since his reign.
  • In Victorian England Lark shooting was very popular.
  • Most Larks were caught by dragging a net across fields at night.
  • The decline of the Skylark in Britain and Europe is contributed to intensive farming and the switch from spring to autumn sowing of cereals resulting in the loss of stubble.

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