The Woodlark { Birds of Europe}

Woodlark Lullula arborea

Taken in Austria originally posted to Flickr and uploaded by Petr 982
Taken in Austria originally posted to Flickr and uploaded by Petr 982 | Source

Introduction

The Woodlark has been allocated the genus name of Lullua from Onomatopoeic Lula a name given by Buffon. others suggest the name derives from the French lu-lu indicating flute like notes. The specific name of arboreus derives from the Latin arbor a tree.

In the UK they are placed on the Amber list of conservation concern {Declines in population/distribution numbers of between 25-50% over the last forty years or so} where the estimated population is 3,100 pairs in summer {2006}. Here they are classed as a migrant breeder-passage winter visitor. { Source the BTO}

The European population is estimated at one point two to three million pairs. The numbers vary from country to country here are a few selected examples. In Austria 700-900 Breeding pairs. Belgium 600-900 breeding pairs. Croatia 5,000-10,000 breeding pairs, France 50,000-200-000 breeding pairs. Germany 25,000-45,000 breeding pairs Spain 560,000-1,300,000 breeding pairs and Ukraine 8,000-12,000 breeding pairs. The European population holds between 75-94% of the global range. {source Birdlife} In Europe it is not a bird of concern.

The Gaelic name for the bird is Uiseag-Choille, the Welsh name-Ehedydd y coed and the Irish-Fuiseog Choille.

Wood lark and habitat

Croosley's ID Guide to Britain and Ireland  Richard Crossley.
Croosley's ID Guide to Britain and Ireland Richard Crossley. | Source

Horned lark

Taken in Lexington Kentucky USA.
Taken in Lexington Kentucky USA. | Source

About Larks

Larks belong to the Passeriformes order of birds {perching birds} and the family Alaudidae within that order. All species occur in the 'Old World' and in Northern and eastern Australia. In America the larks are represented by only one species the Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris.

In Britain they are represented by the Short toed lark {scarce visitor,}, Skylark, Shore Lark and the Woodlark. There are also ten recordings of the Black lark and ten recordings of the White winged lark and ten recordings of the Bimaculated lark.

They are small to medium sized terrestrial passerines with drab,mostly brown or buffish plumage. The bills are extremely variable in size and shape. There are a total of 21 genera,96 species worldwide of which 9 species are threatened. Here we review the Woodlark and as always we commence with a description of the subject under review.

British larks

Thorburn  {1800s} Courtesy of the BHL
Thorburn {1800s} Courtesy of the BHL

Description of the Woodlark

The head colouring of this species consists of rich tan and black streaks on the cap and dark edged rufous cheeks,a long whitish stripe runs over the eye and extends to the back of the neck. The bill is thin and brownish.There is also a noticeable crest.

The back is a bright buff brown colour streaked with black. The wings have a black patch. they are much paler beneath and whitish. The breast is also whitish but streaked with dark markings. The tail is very short. The legs are fleshed coloured.

The flight of the bird is undulating,they also have a circular song flight. On the ground they walk. When in flight the short tail,much shorter than that of the Skylark**,which gives the bird a bat-like appearance. The general colouring it is very similar to that of the Skylark. They are 15 cm {6 inches long } and male and female weigh approximately 30 grams.

** Subject already covered in another of my hubs.

Male bird in flight

Taken near Avila Spain.
Taken near Avila Spain. | Source

Illustration 1800's

Morris --History of Birds 1862-67
Morris --History of Birds 1862-67

Illustration

General information and historical observations.

Gilbert White, the esteemed naturalist of Selborne, {Hampshire England}, writes of the pleasures of a summer evening in the countryside when--

" Blended objects fail the swimming sight,

And all the fading landscapes sinks in the night,

While high in the air and poised upon his wings,

Unseen,the soft enamoured Woodlark sings"


In the UK the Woodlark is by no means a common bird and is very local in its distribution, and confined in the main, to southern counties of England. As its common name suggests it is a bird of well timbered haunts,however, it does not confine itself to the immediate vicinity of woods,and may be encountered on commons where there are trees. Where there are no trees these birds will not be found.

Morris {1867} relates that in this country " It is met with in Yorkshire {northern England} pretty frequently in the neighbourhood of York, but further north of that it becomes rare. It prefers hedgerow trees which are the great ornaments of the English landscape" Morris goes on to relate " In hard weather, a few collect together but for the most part only the original family members six or seven in all are encountered together"

Although this species sometimes soars as high as the Skylark it is not its general habit. It also differs by flying in a circular motion as it descends to the ground in a wide spiral,as opposed to the jerky or oblique drop of the Skylark.

The Woodlark's song is very melodious and by many is considered only second to that of the nightingale**,however, the variety of notes is less varied than those of that bird. With the exception of the moulting season the bird sings throughout the year. It is usually started and sometimes completed from a branch of a tree.More frequently the branch is only the starting point at which the flight song begins which consists of flute-like notes. The bird rises at first obliquely and then gradually swings round,still singing, and rising until it has reaches its desired height,then it will descend in the wide spiral curves previously mentioned. The bird may be mistaken for the skylark and possibly the Tree pipit**.

The food of this species consists of insects which they sometimes chase in the manner of the flycatcher**,but in the main they seek their food on the ground,where it will supplement its diet with grain,weed seeds and green herbage.

** Featured in my hubs on the subject.

Woodlark song Courtesy of mark jobling70

Keeping wild birds was once a popular pastime

Woodlark in captivity

Before wild birds were protected by the law, they were regularly captured by bird catchers who made a good living from their service. They were procured by whatever means and sold as cage and aviary birds or for food at the markets. Thank fully these days are now behind us and with a very few exceptions it is now illegal to keep wild birds in captivity unless under license. The next few paragraphs are from the days when keeping wild birds was a legitimate past time.

It seems that the Woodlark was a great favourite of the bird keeper. One such keeper writes " I have never possessed an adult specimen. On one occasion while driving along a country road in Kent {southern England} with woods on either side,a young bird was seen scampering and leaping to get out of our way. The driver pulled,the horses up and succeeded in catching it for me. However, although it soon fed itself and to repletion,it quickly got cramp and died."

" Later on in June 1887,my son and I caught sight of a slightly older example of the species in a somewhat similar situation and exerted ourselves to catch it, but it made for a tall hawthorn hedge,up which it escaped,with such rapidity, that before we could come up with it,the bird was out of our reach"

" About September 1894,I was beautifully taken by an unprincipled bird catcher. He told me a lovely woodlark he had,and described it as singing splendidly. One dark night he knocked on my door and told me he had brought the bird,which I could have for three shillings. I put my hand through the opening at the top of the cage,and took the bird out. It had a short tail,but {even in the dark} it looked uncanny,however, he told me quite certainly it was a woodlark,so I gave him the money,he hurried off so quickly that I doubted again. Taking it in doors into the light I discovered the bird was a skylark whose tail had been pulled out and had half grown again. I could not help laughing,but I have never bought from that man again."

Another writer declares " they are easily tamed,and become exceedingly familiar,even answering,when called to,with a few liquid notes"

According to Meyer,1850, " They should be fed upon bread and milk {not recommended today},meat chopped very fine,ant eggs and other insects,with the addition of blades of young wheat,oats, hemp and poppy seed.But the most convenient food as a daily dish id German paste,of which most small birds are fond"

Meyer goes on to say " The Woodlark in confinement is a social bird and soon becomes attached. If placed in a large cage where it has plenty choice of situations,it will generally be observed to sit on the side nearest to its human associates.Thus placed and apparently watching calmly the occupation of the persons in the room,this lark sits and sings its sweet song in quiet enjoyment. In a cage the bird usually perches. We have had several which all preferred,and constantly kept possession of a wooden partition,raised a few inches from the floor of the cage,which appeared to afford a comfortable and flat resting place for the sole of the foot. They slept also on the same spot,or upon a perch. When sleeping the legs are much bent ,or compressed under them. Skylarks also which sleep upon the ground, bend and compress their legs in the same manner,so that the body rests upon the feet"

Illustration

Meyer {1850} Coloured Illustrations of British Birds and their Eggs
Meyer {1850} Coloured Illustrations of British Birds and their Eggs

Nest, Eggs and young

Although fond of perching in trees the Woodlark feeds principally on the ground where it also roosts and builds its nest. They are early breeders as early as March or early April should the weather be favourable. The nest is generally more carefully concealed than that of the Skylark

It is placed in a depression in the earth,sometimes under a grass tussock or small bush. It is more compactly built than that of the Skylarks' sometimes of couch grass and a little moss.finer grasses and hair are used to complete the lining. Other it is constructed wholly of grass bents and with the finer ones utilized as the lining.

In the nest the female will deposit 3-5 eggs which are of a dull white colour spotted heavily with reddish-brown. Sometimes they tend to be more heavily marked at the large end,however, they are generally well distributed across the surface of the shell. They are incubated by the female for about 14 days .they are ready to leave the nest in a further 11-13 days. The Woodlark will then raise another brood and if conditions remain favourable even a third may be raised.

Eggs of the Woodlark

Source

More by this Author


8 comments

D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 2 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

aviannovice,

Hi Deb, they sure are pretty birds. I am sure you must have a photograph somewhere in your thousands of images. Good luck looking through them all ! Thank you for your visit. Always appreciated. Best wishes to you.


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

Indeed a wonderful and really very beautiful bird, dab coloration or not. They are al over this country, but I have yet to meet one? Perhaps I should check a few photos...


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 2 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Eiddwen ,

hi Eddy a pleasure to have your company as always. Thank you for your kind comments, your vote up and share,all much appreciated. Best wishes to you.


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 2 years ago from Wales

How wonderful to be back in the countryside once again with you my dear friend. Voted up ,across and shared as always.

Eddy.


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 2 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Ann1Az2,

Hello Ann, thank you your comments are always welcome and thank you for your vote up.Best wishes to you.

Ericdierker,hello my friend, thank you your comments are appreciated. Best wishes to you.

DDE,

Hi Devika, Glad to have introduced you to another of our feathered family. Always good to see you here and all yours votes are greatly valued. Best wishes to you.


DDE profile image

DDE 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

A beautiful bird! I like the way you displayed the unique photo. The introduction is to the point. i have learned about this special bird from you. Voted up, interesting, beautiful, and useful.


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Well done and beautiful


Ann1Az2 profile image

Ann1Az2 2 years ago from Orange, Texas

What a unique, pretty little bird. I love the photo where the males is in flight. Well done - voted up.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working