SPECIES

Sand Lark Alaudala raytal Scientific name definitions

Prasad Ganpule and Per Alström
Version: 2.0 — Published May 7, 2022

Plumages, Molts, and Structure

Plumages

Hatchlings

The natal down (neoptile) has been reported to be whitish or pale ashy-gray in the subspecies krishnakumarsinhji (5), and has been noted to be whitish in general in the subspecies adamsi and raytal (PG).

Juvenile

Juvenile is similar to juveniles of other Alaudala species but is less distinctly patterned (6). It has whitish or pale buff fringing above, especially visible on the secondary coverts, tertials, crown, and scapulars, and to a lesser extent, the mantle, creating a scaled or spotted effect. With time, the pale fringes fade and wear paler and narrower. Juveniles have more rounded, less-dark and more diffuse spots on the breast, mainly on the sides, than in adult. Three to four, white-tipped, primaries are visible beyond the tips of the tertials. Juveniles of the nominate subspecies (raytal) are very pale sandy. The juvenile plumage in the subspecies adamsi varies from pale sandy to pale brownish, or even darker, more gray, with stronger but still indistinct streaking on the breast in the krishnakumarsinhji subspecies. In Gujarat, there is much variation in plumage; some juveniles are pale brownish while others are darker (PG). The reasons for this variation in juvenile plumages could be dependent on substrate color but requires further study.

Adult

The upperparts are pale gray or sandy with narrow, dark brown streaks. In general, in the non-breeding season, individuals of the subspecies raytal are more sandy, while individuals of adamsi vary from pale sandy to grayish, or even darker grayish in the krishnakumarsinhji subspecies. The streaking above is diffuse, and usually strongest on the crown, and generally most well marked in krishnakumarsinhji; in general, it is more prominent in worn plumage than in fresh plumage. The rump is slightly paler than the rest of the upperparts. The face pattern is indistinct, usually showing a diffuse whitish or, when fresh, pale buffish supercilium and pale area below the eye, and pale brownish ear-coverts; some individuals have warm brown or rufous ear-coverts (PG). There may be a thin dark loral stripe, and indistinct dark moustachial stripe and malar stripe, as well as a pale patch on the lower anterior ear-coverts. The underparts are whitish or, when fresh, very pale buffish, with variable dark streaking on the breast: in most raytal and many adamsi, the streaks are thin and most prominent on the sides of the breast, whereas many krishnakumarsinhji have heavily streaked breast, which also continues thinly onto the flanks; the dark streaks are usually more diffuse in fresh than in worn plumage. The secondary coverts and tertials have pale tips and edges when fresh, varying from whitish to pale buffish. The remiges and rectrices are all dark, except for thin whitish tips to the outer primaries, and the outermost rectrix, which has white outer web and a white wedge on the inner web.

Wear and bleaching are noticeable in plumage from just before the breeding to when the molt commences after the breeding period, both in Gujarat and in other parts of its range . Such birds may have a disheveled look, with worn wing feathers and often tatty-looking tails. The plumage is duller at this stage and looks less sandy gray.

Sexes are similar. See Subspecies for more details.

Molts

Both post-breeding and post-juvenile molts are complete (4). The timing of the molt depends on the breeding period and is therefore highly variable. In Gujarat in W India, birds start to molt from April onwards (PG). Just before the molt commences, the plumage is very worn, and the wings and tertials are heavily abraded. Individuals in active molt are: .

The duration of the molt is not known, but individuals with near-completed molt have been seen from late June to mid September in Gujarat in western India (PG), and birds which have not yet started to molt because of extremely late breeding have been seen in early September . Vaurie and Dharmakumarsinhji (7) reported that specimens collected at Bhavnagar in Gujarat in April were in very worn plumage, while a specimen from June was halfway through its molt; specimens from August were in very fresh plumage while those collected in November were in relatively little worn plumage. The molt timing for the subspecies raytal is even less well known but is likely to be similar to or slightly earlier than adamsi since the breeding period is earlier than in adamsi; specimens from Bhutan (n = 3) collected in March had worn body plumage and wings but slightly worn rectrices (n = 2) while one individual had almost fresh primaries and rectrices (8), and birds in active molt have been observed in Bangladesh in late May .

The post-juvenile molt to first-adult plumage is completed by June-July in the subspecies krishnakumarsinhji in Gujarat, western India (PG). During this process, juvenile feathers are replaced by newer, adult-type feathers. Many juveniles seen in active molt in October or November in Gujarat are likely to be either extremely late hatched individuals or of second brood (PG). After completion of the post-juvenile molt, first-adults are indistinguishable from adults. For the subspecies raytal and adamsi, details of the postjuvenile molt are not available, but are likely to be similar to krishnakumarsinhji.

Bare Parts

Bill and Gape

Bill very pale yellowish, horn-colored or greenish or, less commonly, pale pinkish or grayish/whitish, with distinct medium or dark gray culmen and tip to lower mandible (1). Claims that the bill of krishnakumarsinhji is blackish above and below (7) are incorrect based on examination of the type specimen as well as birds in the field as bill color in krishnakumarsinhji is similar to raytal and adamsi. In juveniles, the gape is fleshy yellow.

Iris and Facial Skin

Iris dark brown.

Tarsi and Toes

The tarsi and toes of adults are fleshy-yellow, pale pinkish, pinkish or pinkish-orange (9, 1). In juveniles, the legs are fleshy yellow or pale pinkish.

Measurements

Linear Measurements

Overall length 12–13 cm.

Linear measurements are shown in Table 1 and Table 2 (data from 10, 3, 7, 11, 12, 6, 4, PA unpublished data).

Wing Formula

For subspecies adamsi (4)

Primaries numbered p10 to p1 distally. p1: minute, pp2–4: about equal and longest, p5< wing tip 2–5 mm, p6: < wing tip 7–12 mm, p7: < wing tip 12–18 mm,

tertial tip: < wing tip 11.5–16.5 mm (= 6/7 or = 7), rarely = 6 or 7/8

Emarginations: pp3–5 (exceptionally faintly on p6).

Additional wing formula measurements are shown in Table 3 (PA unpublished data).

Mass

3 males: 18–19 g (9).

Recommended Citation

Ganpule, P. and P. Alström (2022). Sand Lark (Alaudala raytal), version 2.0. In Birds of the World (N. D. Sly, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.sanlar1.02