Asian Short-toed Lark Alaudala cheleensis Scientific name definitions

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

Sounds and Vocal Behavior


The following is based on the authors' experience and, for songs, on Alström et al. (1).


Information needed.

Vocal Array


As in the three other Eurasian Alaudala species, the Asian Short-toed Lark has two main types of song. The main song is given in a high, extended song-flight (see Behavior: Sexual Behavior), and may continue for several minutes. Another type is delivered either from the ground or a low perch or in a low circling song-flight (see Behavior: Sexual Behavior), or on the ascent to or descent from the high song-flight . It is on average shorter than the high flight-song, especially when given in the low song-flight. At least when performed in flight, this latter type can probably be given by both sexes, and apparently often during distress near the nest.

The main, high-flight, song of the Asian Short-toed Lark of the subspecies cheleensis consists of short, fast strophes of mainly rather scratchy notes. It sounds more hurried, with a more abrupt beginning and shorter strophes, and less churring, grating voice than the corresponding song of the Turkestan Short-toed Lark (Alaudala heinei). It has shorter strophes (mean 1.6 s ± 0.2 SD, n = 29 versus 4.1 s ± 0.7 SD, n = 23 in the Turkestan Short-toed Lark), with fewer notes (17.2 ± 3.6 SD, n = 29 versus 35.2 ± 8.4 SD, n = 23 in the Turkestan Short-toed Lark), a lower number of different note types (13.4 ± 3.4, n = 29 versus 27.0 ± 6.7, n = 23 in the Turkestan Short-toed Lark), and shorter pauses (3.9 s ± 0.6 SD, n = 29 versus 7.1 s ± 2.1 SD, n = 23 in the Turkestan Short-toed Lark). Sonograms also reveal a lower proportion of drawn-out dry rattles of thin elements as well as a lower proportion of complex drawn-out musical notes, but more repetitions of complex notes, especially towards the end of the strophe, compared to the Turkestan Short-toed Lark. The song of the Central Asian subspecies leucophaea of Asian Short-toed Lark is not known with certainty, but there are indications that it resembles the main song of the Asian Short-toed Lark of the subspecies seebohmi from the Xinjiang Province of western China (referred to as kukunoorensis in 1). The latter is only marginally different from the song of the cheleensis subspecies (it has on average narrower frequency span, fewer note types, and a higher proportion of simple repetitions, often several series of such repetitions in a strophe, giving the song a more rattling quality than in cheleensis).

The perched/low-flight song type consists of a fast, prolonged ramble of various whistled and churring notes, including thin, drawn-out whistles and typical call notes, as well as masterful mimicry of other birds (e.g., other lark species that occur in the same area). The notes are often repeated multiple times, and the speed may change much during the delivery. Any silent pauses are irregular in length, but usually considerably shorter than in the main song type. Spells of high flight-song can also be included, especially from perched birds . This song type is not known to differ from the corresponding songs of the Mediterranean Short-toed Lark and Turkestan Short-toed Lark.


The typical calls of the Asian Short-toed Lark are harsh, churring "cherr," "cherr-de" or similar. In at least the nominate subspecies, they are on average slightly lower-pitched, softer, less dry rasping and rattling and marginally shorter than those of the Turkestan Short-toed Lark. As in the other Asian Alaudala species, when perched, it frequently gives drawn-out, slightly descending, slightly “impure” whistles (also frequently included in the song when given during low song-flight or when perched).

Geographic Variation

Slight geographic variation has been noted; more information is needed, especially as the song of the Central Asian subspecies (leucophaea) is undocumented.

Daily Pattern of Vocalizing

The song can be given at any time from just before dawn to the evening, but most frequently in the morning. Pre-dawn song is probably only given from the ground or a perch.

Places of Vocalizing

Both songs and calls can be given from the ground, a low perch or in flight.

Social Context and Presumed Functions of Vocalizations

The high flight-song is presumably directed at females, and is likely to have territorial functions as well. The same probably applies to the song given from a perch. The function of the low flight-song is more uncertain, as it can presumably be given by both sexes during distress.

Nonvocal Sounds

None reported.

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