SPECIES

Asian Short-toed Lark Alaudala cheleensis Scientific name definitions

Per Alström, Sundev Gombobaatar, and Paul F. Donald
Version: 2.0 — Published October 24, 2023

Identification

Field Identification

14–15 cm; ca. 20–27 g. The Asian Short-toed Lark is a small, rather short-billed lark with prominent primary projection, rather short tail and short hind claw (6–10 mm). It shows distinctly streaked breast and upperparts, and fairly indistinct buffish to whitish supercilium. It can raise a small crest, especially when excited. The sexes are similar. The juvenile plumage is clearly different from the adult, with pale fringes above.

Similar Species Summary

The Asian Short-toed Lark is extremely similar to the Turkestan Short-toed Lark (Alaudala heinei).

Similar Species

The content below is mainly based on the authors' personal experience, and published literature (e.g., 1).

In Central Asia, the Asian Short-toed Lark of the subspecies leucophaea is probably widely sympatric with the Turkestan Short-toed Lark of the nominate subspecies, and in south central Mongolia the Asian Short-toed Lark of the nominate subspecies is in close geographical proximity or perhaps marginally sympatric with the Turkestan Short-toed Lark of the nominate subspecies. These two species are extremely similar, and are best separated by the song given in the high song-flight, although this requires some practice to appreciate (see Sounds and Vocal Behavior: Vocalizations). Moreover, the flight action during the high song-flight usually differs clearly between these two species (see Sounds and Vocal Behavior: Song-flight). Birds on the ground can usually only be distinguished by the length of the primary projection and, especially, by the relative lengths of the outer primaries on the folded wing. The primary projection is shorter, and the outer primaries are less widely and less equally spaced on the closed wing in the Asian Short-toed Lark. The distance between the longest (7th, counted from the inner outward) and the next one inward (6th) is usually much shorter than the distance between the 6th and the next one inward (5th) in the Asian Short-toed Lark, whereas the distance between the 7th and the 6th is usually approximately equal to that between the 6th and the 5th in the Turkestan Short-toed Lark; in both species, the 8th primary sometimes projects a very short distance beyond the tip of the 7th. In the hand, the more rounded wing tip of the Asian Short-toed Lark can be judged (see Table 1), and the outermost rectrix shows on average less dark distally on the inner web, producing a broader white wedge than in the Turkestan Short-toed Lark, although there is overlap (see Table 1 for details). In flight, the proportionately longer tail of the Asian Short-toed Lark can sometimes be appreciated. In Central Asia, in addition to the above, the Asian Short-toed Lark of the subspecies leucophaea is paler and grayer above and whiter below than the sympatric Turkestan Short-toed Lark of the subspecies heinei.

In the western part of its range, the Asian Short-toed Lark could also be confused with the Greater Short-toed Lark (Calandrella brachydactyla), and in the eastern part of the range with the Mongolian Short-toed Lark (Calandrella dukhunensis). However, both the Greater Short-toed Lark and Mongolian Short-toed Lark have longer tertials, which reach to or almost to the tip of the folded wing (hence, no prominent primary projection, but beware of individuals with molting or missing tertials), and usually slightly longer and less "stubby" and less yellowish bill. Moreover, the breast is usually largely unstreaked in the Greater Short-toed Lark and Mongolian Short-toed Lark, with just a few thin streaks on the side and a larger blackish patch on each side of the breast. The head pattern is more contrasting in the Greater Short-toed Lark and Mongolian Short-toed Lark, with more prominent supercilium. In addition, the forehead is often almost unstreaked in the Greater Short-toed Lark and Mongolian Short-toed Lark, whereas the forehead and crown are uniformly streaked in the Asian Short-toed Lark.

The Asian Short-toed Lark is superficially similar to the Eurasian Skylark (Alauda arvensis) and Oriental Skylark (Alauda gulgula), with which it is locally sympatric. However, the skylarks are much larger and heavier, with proportionately longer and thinner bills.

Recommended Citation

Alström, P., S. Gombobaatar, and P. F. Donald (2023). Asian Short-toed Lark (Alaudala cheleensis), version 2.0. In Birds of the World (P. G. Rodewald and B. K. Keeney, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.lstlar2.02