The Mediterranean short-toed lark (Alaudala rufescens, Vieillot, 1819) is a passerine bird belonging to the Alaudidae family.
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Species A. rufescens.
The term is basionym:
Calandrella rufescens (Vieillot, 1819).
The terms are synonyms:
– Alauda pispoletta Pallas, 1811;
– Alauda rufescens Vieillot, 1819;
– Alaudala rufescens (Vieillot, 1819);
– Alaudala rufescens subsp. Heinei;
– Alaudala rufescens subsp. Nicolli;
– Alaudala rufescens subsp. Niethammeri;
– Alaudala rufescens subsp. Persica;
– Alaudala rufescens subsp. Polatzeki;
– Alaudala rufescens subsp. Pseudobaetica;
– Alaudala rufescens subsp. Rufescens;
– Calandrella pispoletta (Pallas, 1811);
– Calandrella rufscens (Vieillot, 1820).
Within this species some subspecies are recognised:
– Alaudala rufescens apetzii (Brehm,AE) 1857: which lives in the eastern and southern Iberian peninsula
– Alaudala rufescens heinei (Homeyer) 1873;
– Alaudala rufescens minor (Cabanis) 1851: present from Morocco to north-western Egypt and from southern Turkey to the Sinai peninsula and eastern Iraq;
– Alaudala rufescens nicolli Hartert 1909: present in the Nile delta (northern Egypt);
– Alaudala rufescens polatzeki Hartert 1904: present in the eastern Canary Islands;
– Alaudala rufescens pseudobaetica Stegmann 1932;
– Alaudala rufescens rufescens (Vieillot) 1819: present in Tenerife (central-western Canary Islands).
Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
The Alaudala rufescens is a bird which with its subspecies is present in a vast range going from Eurasia to Africa. It is common from the Canary Islands north to the Iberian Peninsula and east throughout North Africa to parts of the Middle East.
This bird breeds in southern Russia, and winters in Asia Minor and Egypt.
It also breeds in Spain, North Africa, also including Turkey eastward through the semi-deserts of Central Asia to Mongolia and China. Many populations are sedentary (non-migratory), but some Asian birds from northern breeding ranges migrate south in winter. This species is a very rare vagrant in northern and western Europe. In Italy it is very rare.
Its range was also previously thought to include parts of Central Asia, and with the Mediterranean and Central Asian clades combined; a 2020 study split these two populations into distinct species, with A. rufescens being the Mediterranean clade and A. heinei being the Central Asian clade.
The Alaudala rufescens is a passerine bird with a length ranging from 13 to 14 cm. The color varies among all the subspecies and is in any case greyish-brown streaked dark above and white below. It has a pale supercilium and a short, stocky bill.
Often difficult to distinguish from Calandrella due to plumage variability in both species. It can be recognized because it is more gray, with an entirely streaked chest and never dotted with black on the sides. Apparently more rounded head, grayer and indistinct eyebrow, shorter but sometimes thinner beak than in the Calandrella.
The singing is richer and more varied.
Alaudala rufescens has a reproductive season that varies according to its geographical distribution, but generally occurs during spring and summer. During this period, males try to attract females with melodious and complex songs. These songs also serve to establish and defend the territory of the males.
Once a female has been attracted to a male, the two birds engage in a variety of courtship behaviors, such as acrobatic flight displays and food offerings. After establishing a bond, the pair build a nest on the ground, often well camouflaged in low vegetation.
The female usually lays 2-3 white eggs, which are incubated by both parents for about 12-14 days. During incubation, the parents take turns keeping the eggs warm and protected. Once hatched, the chicks are nidifugous, which means they are able to move around and feed on their own shortly after hatching.
Both parents care for the chicks, feeding them insects and seeds until they are able to fly and face the outside world on their own. After nesting, some pairs may attempt a second brood in the same year.
Ecological role –
The Alaudala rufescens is a bird frequents dry lands in the open countryside, where it looks for seeds and insects on which it nourishes.
It is mainly found in open habitats such as meadows, farmlands and pastures, where they can forage in the ground for food. During the breeding season, they also feed on seeds and grains, which provide them with the energy needed for the chicks to grow.
Their diets may vary depending on the availability of food in their area. For example, during times of insect scarcity, they may be more dependent on seeds and other plant resources.
In general, it is an omnivorous bird, which means it can adapt to a variety of foods available in its habitat area.
According to the IUCN, this species has a conservation status that makes it classified as “least concern”, also due to its vast distribution area.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– C.Battisti, D. Taffon, F. Giucca, 2008. Atlas of nesting birds, Gangemi Editore, Rome.
– L. Svensson, K.Mullarney, D. Zetterstrom, 1999. Guide to Birds of Europe, North Africa and the Near East, Harper Collins Publisher, UK.