SPECIES

Sand Lark Alaudala raytal Scientific name definitions

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

Breeding

Introduction

Phenology

Pair Formation

No information.

Nest Building

No information.

First Brood

For the nominate subspecies, nesting starts in mid-February and primarily occurs in March and April. Since this subspecies nests near large rivers, breeding has to be completed before the rivers rise during the monsoon rains (42).

The subspecies adamsi breeds from about mid-March to September in Gujarat, India. April and May are the main months for breeding, and since they are hot summer months, temperatures often reaching up to 47° C. July and August are the months with the most rainfall.

Second/Later Broods

For the nominate subspecies, occasional second broods have been noted, built high up on sandbanks beyond the reach of any typical monsoon flood. Such nests have been observed in July (42).

Second broods are most likely for the subspecies adamsi (PG). Fresh juveniles are sometimes seen in September in Gujarat, indicating that they are from later breeding or a second brood (PG).

Nest Site

Selection Process

No information.

Microhabitat

See Site Characteristics.

Site Characteristics

The nominate subspecies nests mainly on sandy riverbanks. Their nests are located near stones or pieces of fallen timber in a plot of sand. Nests are often built under tamarisk bushes or occasionally placed beside a tuft of grass, which is not an effective shield from the sun (42). In Myanmar, the Sand Lark usually builds nests on sandy riverbanks, islands in the river, a small natural hollow, under a tuft of grass, beneath a piece of driftwood, or any similar shelter that protects it from the sand storms that sweep the Irrawaddy river at intervals during the hot weather (40). Nests are also located at the base of a tamarisk seedling, in the shade of a small arenicolous plant such as Argemone, in a plot of grass growing on a sandy riverbed or bank, or sometimes in the shelter of a clod of river silt (9).

The subspecies adamsi nests on sandy riverbanks, islands in rivers, as well as at salt pans, in dry desert lands, or mudflats – usually under a Salsola bush or beside similar desert vegetation. Frequently, the nest is placed on the north side of the chosen location and consists of a little depression in the soil. The nests in salt pans and mud-flats are often near human habitation.

In Gujarat, India, nests are often located near or on man-made structures like railway embankment or elevated roads in salt-pans (PG). In Bhavnagar, Gujarat nests have been seen halfway up the embankment of a railway line passing through mudflats; the embankment consisted of loose stones and local vegetation (5). In salt pans in Bhavnagar, nest building has been observed under unused PVC roofing sheets lying on the ground amidst stones and bricks. The Sand Larks were observed building nests by collecting nesting material and going under the roofing sheets inside this sheet (PG). Nests near Suaeda plants, and under dried and discarded coconut husks, have also been observed (7).

Nest

Construction Process

The nest is built by both the male and the female.

Structure and Composition

The nest, is a cup-like depression in the ground. A Sand Lark pair uses a natural hollow or a nest may be scraped out by the pair. The nest is generally very flimsy, more rarely a comparatively well-built one. The nest may contain grass and dry tamarisk leaflets, or grass with a few feathers stuck in the nest. The nest may be lined substantially with dry grass, lumps of raw cotton, a few horse hairs, small pieces of rag, thread, a few old feathers, and thin pieces of hard encrusted earth.

Dimensions

The nest is about 2.5 to 3 inches in diameter (approximately 63.5 mm to 76.2 mm) (42, 43).

Eggs

Shape

Rather elongated and ovular, only slightly compressed towards one end (43).

Size

The average egg size (n = 20) for subspecies raytal is 20.1 x 14.6 mm, the maximum size is 21.0 x 14.1 mm and 20.2 x 15.0 mm, and the minimum is 18.0 x 13.9 mm (42). The average egg size for subspecies adamsi (n = 40) is 19.0 x 14.2 mm, the maximum is 21.2 x 14.5 mm and 19.7 x 15.0 mm, and the minimum is 17.7 x 14.4 mm and 17.8 x 13.4 mm (42).

Mass

No information.

Eggshell Thickness

No information.

Color and Surface Texture

Eggs are glossy yellowish or grayish white with specks, freckles, small patches or markings of pale grayish brown or reddish brown (9). Some eggs are less glossy and their markings are finer and more speckled (43). Others may be excessively speckled with yellowish-brown dots, though a few are said to have very faint inky-purple specks (43). A clutch from Myanmar (at Yesagyo) had a pale buff base color with small blotches of dull brown and lavender, leaving the base quite visible. A clutch from Bihar had a base color of pure white with slight brown blotching and big clouds of lavender-gray (42). The eggs of the subspecies krishnakumarsinhji are said to have a white ground color and light and dark brown spots, sometimes mixed with gray, which become denser towards the broad end of the eggs (44).

Clutch Size

Usually three eggs, sometimes two.

Egg Laying

Details are not known. According to one record, a nest contained two eggs on the first day of observation, and on the second day, one more egg had been laid (43). It is likely that eggs are laid at an interval of one day but details are lacking and further study is required.

Incubation

Incubation Period

Not known.

Parental Behavior

Incubation is done by both the male and the female. During the hot months, the male and female take turns incubating the eggs at very short intervals (42). The male was not observed bringing food to the female during incubation at a nest in Gujarat, India, though the observation period was short (PG).

Hatching

No information.

Young Birds

Condition at Hatching

When hatched, young are altricial (needing parental care) and nidicolous (staying in the nest).

Growth and Development

Young initially remain in the nest and are fed frequently by their parents.

Parental Care

Brooding

Brooding is mainly done by the female.

Feeding

Both sexes bring food to the young. There are no details available regarding feeding rates, but in an observation of a nest at Bhavnagar, Gujarat, the parents were observed continuously feeding the young in the morning till noon and from late afternoon till the evening; in mid-noon, feeding was not observed (5). The young are exclusively fed insects in Gujarat, India (PG). The parents caught a mouthful of insects from nearby areas and fed them to the young. The young opened their gapes wide, disclosing their reddish-yellow mouthparts to receive food, and were fed.

Nest Sanitation

Nest sanitation is done by removing the fecal sacs of the young. When the chicks are very young, the fecal sacs are eaten by the male and female, and as the chicks get older, the fecal sacs are taken away from the nest by both sexes, and deposited away from the nest. The young raise their posterior while the male or female take the fecal sac directly from the young.

Cooperative Breeding

No information is available.

Brood Parasitism by Other Species

The Sand Lark is not known to be a host for any cuckoo species (45). However, a curious case of a Sand Lark and a Crested Lark (Galerida cristata) laying eggs in the same nest has been documented; three eggs in the clutch were of Crested Lark and two of Sand Lark (46).

Fledgling Stage

Association with Parents or Other Young

After leaving the nest, the young are tended to by both parents. The male and female continue to feed the young, which do not move very far from the nest area (PG). The period of dependency on the parents after leaving the nest is not known.

In one nest observed at Jamnagar, Gujarat, the three young could not fly and were seen outside (but not far from) the nest (PG). The parents were seen feeding the young birds. It was also observed that the young followed the parents on the ground.

Immature Stage

Juveniles are seen near the nest area. Juveniles with tail feathers still growing have been observed feeding on grains/cereals as well as catching insects independently (PG). At this stage, parental care is not needed and the birds were not dependent on the parents for food (PG).

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