SPECIES

Sand Lark Alaudala raytal Scientific name definitions

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

Behavior

Introduction

Sand Lark is usually seen alone or in scattered twos or threes, and in the non-breeding season small flocks of 20 to 30 individuals are frequent. Sand Lark is mainly a terrestrial bird and feeds and forages exclusively on the ground. It regularly feeds in flocks on seeds, grains, and cereals put out by local villagers.

The Sand Lark is tolerant of anthropogenic pressure and is frequently seen around human habitation.

Locomotion

Walking, Running, Hopping, Climbing, etc.

The Sand Lark runs on the ground in short spurts, but may also stay foraging in the same place for prolonged periods with bent tarsus and body crouched low on the ground (41). Runs in a zigzag or straight line. They can be quite fast when running on the ground. They stretch themselves to drink water from drinking pots.

Flight

Has a rather jerky, fluttering flight action during normal, non-display flight (see Repertoire and Delivery of Songs for song-flight). Flies short distances when disturbed from feeding and alights on the ground about 50 to 100 m away, returning back after a few minutes. Not known to undertake long migration and hence not a long distance flier.

Self-Maintenance

Preening, Head Scratching, Stretching, Sunbathing, Bathing, Anting, etc.

Sand Lark has been observed preening, bathing in water, and dust bathing.

Preening is done when the bird is perched on the ground. Using mainly its beak, it cleans its tail, wings and body feathers. The feet are used to scratch the feathers on the head. The number of times preening is done in a day is not known. Dust bathing (dusting) has been observed in Gujarat, western India (PG). The birds lower themselves on the ground, with the belly on the ground in the sand/dried mud/soil and vigorously shake themselves, spraying the dust all over the body. The wings are stretched so that they are dusted. The head is often twisted so that the crown is also dusted. This activity has been observed in the late evening and in early morning in Gujarat (PG). The dust bathing lasts for 10 to 15 seconds and the birds shake themselves after the dust bath, probably to remove the larger particles from their bodies.

Dust bathing is speculated to be one of the important reasons for correlation between plumage and substrate color, whereby camouflage or "environmental cloaking" may be linked to the habit of larks to dust-bathe [32]. Hence, it is possible that the frequency of dust bathing may be higher than presently known. However, the frequency of dust bathing in Sand Lark requires further study.

Bathing in the water has been observed when the birds are foraging in the areas where grains/cereals are kept by local people in Gujarat (PG). In such places, water pots are also kept for the birds to drink water from. Sand Larks have been observed to bathe in these pots. The birds perch on the rim of the pots and lower themselves in the water. They dip in the water, letting the water flow over the body. The body and wings are shaken after coming out. This activity lasts for hardly 5 to 10 seconds. At such places, flocks are often seen and there may be more than one individual bathing in such water pots.

Stretching is also a self-maintenance activity. While feeding or foraging, Sand Lark may stop for a few moments to stretch its wing and spread its tail. This is often done while standing on one leg. This is done by individuals while feeding too.

Sleeping and Roosting

Roosts on the ground. In the hot summer months in Gujarat, India, rests in the afternoon shade, often in the shadows of electricity poles or other man-made structures and small shrubs. Sleeps on the ground in the winter (during the non-breeding season), usually in a scattered flock containing about 10 to 12 individuals (PG). Sleeping individuals often crouch when light (usually from car lamps) falls on them.

Daily Time Budget

There have been no detailed studies done on the Sand Lark's daily time budget. The Sand Lark is more active early in the morning and late in the evening - when it feeds and forages.

Agonistic Behavior

Physical Interactions

When feeding on grains and cereals, the Sand Lark crouches, raises its tail, and spreads its wings to assert dominance over other Sand Larks (usually specific individuals). After this display, it moves forward and chases the other individuals away from the feeding area. Other Sand Larks feeding nearby gave no reaction during this display (PG).

Interspecific interactions between Sand Larks have been observed in Gujarat, India (PG). At feeding spots where grains and cereals are put out by local people, the Sand Lark forages with other species. It has been observed interacting with the Rock Pigeon (Columba livia), House Sparrow (Passer domesticus), Crested Lark (Galerida cristata), Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus), House Crow (Corvus splendens), and Indian Silverbill (Euodice malabarica). Sand Lark is often chased from the feeding area by the Rock Pigeon, House Sparrow, and Crested Lark. The Sand Lark runs away when aggressively approached by these larger species and moves to another part of the feeding area. Sand Lark often chase away Indian Silverbill from the feeding site.

In salt pans in Gujarat, Sand Lark shares the habitat with waders, gulls, and terns (PG). However, interactions have not been observed between these species. Along large rivers in northern India, Sand Lark shares the habitat with many other species, but details of interspecific interactions are lacking.

Threat and Appeasement Display

No details are available regarding threat and appeasement display.

Territorial Behavior

Information about Sand Lark territoriality is lacking. In Gujarat, India, it is common in areas with suitable habitats (PG). However, in the breeding season, it establishes territory and chases other birds (presumably males) from its area. Several pairs were noted to be nesting within a few hundred meters of each other in Pakistan (41). The exact area of a breeding season territory is unknown. In the non-breeding season, the Sand Lark appears to move over wider areas for foraging, visiting nearby agricultural landscapes outside of its habitat, where it is absent from in the breeding season. It may move short distances from its breeding area in the winter.

Sexual Behavior

Courtship, Copulation, and Pair Bond

The male has impressive courtship displays, consisting of song-flight (see Repertoire and Delivery of Songs) as well as display on the ground. The male displays on the ground to a female by lowering its wings, or with with its wings half open and fluttering, and often raising its tail and crown-feathers and sometimes stretching its neck. During this behavior, the male frequently sings excitedly. More than one male may display in front of the female, and two males may spar at each other with their heads lowered (5). A part of the courtship display consists of the male offering insects to the female .

Copulation occurs after courtship and during nest building (PG). The male mounts the female, who crouches and raises the posterior, allowing the male to copulate. Copulation is brief (less than five seconds). The frequency and duration of copulation require further study.

Extra Pair Mating Behavior/Paternity

No information available.

Social and Interspecific Behavior

Degree of Sociality

Gregarious and forms flocks of 20 or more birds in the non-breeding season. In the breeding season, stays in pairs till the chicks fledge.

Predation

In Gujarat, India, Sand Lark shares its salt pan habitat year-round with the main birds of prey in the area: the Red-necked Falcon (Falco chicquera) and the Shikra (Accipiter badius). In the winter, the Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus calidus) is also seen in this habitat. In the Little Rann of Kachchh and Greater Rann of Kachchh in Gujarat, Sand Lark habitat is also shared by the Merlin (Falco columbarius) and the Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) in the winter. In other parts of the Sand Lark's range, only a few of these birds of prey are present. While it is well known that larks are prey for falcons, there have been no direct observations of Sand Lark being preyed upon by these species. Further studies are required to know whether the Sand Lark is a part of these birds' diets.

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