The skylark

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    The Eurasian skylark (Alauda arvensis Linnaeus) is a small passerine that breeds across most of Eurasia from Western Europe and northwest Africa to eastern Russia, northern China, Japan and eastern Siberia (Figure 16.1). Its taxonomy is somewhat murky, A. arvensis is sometimes considered forming a superspecies with the Oriental skylark (A. gulgula Franklin) and some of its 13 subspecies are treated as species by some authors (del Hoyo et al. 2004). The subspecies are sometimes divided into ‘European Group’ and ‘Asian Group’, which I refer to as western and eastern skylarks in the remainder of this chapter. The western skylark (especially the subspecies A. a. arvensis) was the subject of most published studies as well as providing stock for introductions. Skylarks are mainly resident in the west of their range, but eastern populations are more migratory, moving further south in winter (Figure 16.1). 

    In the past, especially through the nineteenth century, the skylark’s range had presumably expanded, as large-scale habitat change, including increased deforestation and expansion of crops and pastures made it possible for the species to spread from diminishing natural steppe grasslands (Cramp 1988). Today it is one of the most common farmland birds in countries with extensive farmland, such as Germany (Toepfer and Stubbe 2001), France (Eraud and Boutin 2002), the Netherlands (Kragten et al. 2008), Sweden (Wretenberg et al. 2006), Finland (Suhonen et al. 1994), Poland (Sanderson et al. 2009) and the United Kingdom, where about 70% of the total skylark population occurs on farmland and 50% on arable land (Donald and Vickery 2000).

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationInvasion Biology and Ecological Theory
    Subtitle of host publicationInsights from a Continent in Transformation
    EditorsHerbert H T Prins, Iain J. Gordon
    Place of PublicationCambridge and New York
    PublisherCambridge University Press
    Number of pages22
    ISBN (Electronic)9781139565424
    ISBN (Print)9781107035812
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


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