SPECIES

Sand Lark Alaudala raytal Scientific name definitions

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

Habitat

Introduction

Subspecies raytal mainly occupies dry, sandy riverbanks and islands in large rivers, islets in small streams, and adjacent fields. Geographically, this includes the sandbanks of large rivers in India, Bangladesh, and Myanmar (for example, the Ganga and Yamuna rivers in India, the Irrawaddy and Chindwin rivers in Myanmar, and the Jamuna and Padma rivers in Bangladesh). The Sand Lark is also found along the margins of large dams (for example, it is fairly commonly seen around Pong Dam in Himachal Pradesh). It is also common along sandbanks and rivers in Nepal and Bhutan.

In addition to sandy river banks and islands in rivers, subspecies adamsi occupies areas along the coast, semi-deserts close to mouths of rivers, salt pans, and the dry margins of some large lakes. The adamsi subspecies can be found in the grass and Salsola bushes of Sindh, Pakistan's arid and desert habitats (37). In Gujarat, where adamsi are widespread, individuals typically occupy mud-flats, salt pans, coastal areas, the margins of large lakes, and fields adjacent to the coast or salt pans. The adamsi subspecies is fairly common along the Indus River in Pakistan. In Iran, adamsi are mostly coastal, as seen in the Hormozgan Province.

The type-locality of the subspecies krishnakumarsinhji consists of marine mud-flats around Bhavnagar in Saurashtra, Gujarat. The vegetation consists of marine grasses and small Suaeda nudiflora plants (7). Individuals similar to krishnakumarsinhji are widespread in Gujarat, found in coastal areas, mud-flats, salt pans, and the dry margins of lakes (1).

Large parts of Little Rann of Kachchh and Greater Rann of Kachchh are inundated by monsoons. Sand Lark is common in the mud-flats of Little Rann of Kachchh and Greater Rann of Kachchh. During monsoons, Sand Lark moves to the beyts (elevated islands in the rann) or towards the periphery of the rann, which is sandy or muddy, and slightly elevated, thus escaping the water. Sand Lark also uses embankments, mounds of mud or salt, elevated roads in the salt pans, and margins of the rann during monsoon season. Likewise, in Myanmar, it has been observed on roads and plains during the height of floods on the Irrawaddy River.

While it is known that the subspecies raytal can mainly be seen along large rivers in India and neighboring countries, it is not known up to what elevation is it seen. It is usually seen along the foothills and not at higher elevations. However, F. Stoliczka collected a specimen from Lamayouru Camping Ground in Rupshu Valley, Ladakh at around 13,000 feet (~3,960 m) (38). That area is a typical high-altitude cold mountainous desert habitat. This is a somewhat surprising habitat for the Sand Lark, as there are no high altitude records from this area or from other parts of its range. This specimen should be rechecked as this record could be of Turkestan Short-toed Lark (Alaudala heinei) / Asian Short-toed Lark (Alaudala cheleensis) and not of Sand Lark, though Hume (1870) identified it as a Sand Lark (39). Typically, Sand Lark elevation is limited to the foothills of the Himalayas.

Habitat in Breeding Range

See above.

Habitat in Nonbreeding Range

Sand Lark is not migratory and habitat use remains the same in the breeding and the non-breeding season, so they are commonly seen in the same habitats year-round. However, there are a few exceptions: in the non-breeding season, Sand Lark may be found in the dry margins of lakes (which have dried up in the winter), but are absent from such habitats in the summer. For example, Sand Lark is not seen in Chhari-Dhand (a large lake in the Banni area of Kachchh, Gujarat) during the monsoon season or early summer, but it has been recorded in this area in the winter when the lake has completely dried up (PG). Similarly, Sand Larks have been photographed in Desert National Park (near Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, India) in the winter, but they have not been seen there in the monsoon season (PG). The park is a typical desert-type habitat composed of sand dunes. Thus, overall, Sand Lark may make short trips to habitats in the non-breeding season that differ from their breeding season habitats. However, further studies are required to understand their habitat use in the non-breeding season. Sand Lark is mainly a resident bird and these short movements to nearby areas with suitable habitat may be rare.

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