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Order Song birds/Passeriformes, Family Larks/Alaudidae

Lesser Short-toed Lark/Calandrella rufescens - Adult

L 13-14½ cm. Breeds on dry plains (clay), by salines and on desert-like steppe. Mainly resident, but eastern populations migrate to Middle East.
IDENTIFICATION: Small, usually fractionally smaller than Short-toed Lark (but some eastern races equal in size), greyer and more evenly streaked. Best separated by: streaked breast (incl. centre of breast, recalling dwarf Skylark); shorter tertials (ending 10-15 mm short of wing-tip); shorter, more bulbous bill; and voice. Often ‘cute-looking’ from rounded head shape, small bill and wide pale eye-ring. Supercilium is usually less obvious. Cheek finely streaked. Song-flight often drifting around with fluttering wingbeats and partly spread tail, in suitable winds now and then shifting to clearly slower wingbeats (never seen from Short-toed). - Marked geographical variation: Birds of Spain (ssp. apetzii) small and rather grey-brown, breast heavily streaked, flanks streaked, too. Birds in S Middle East and N Africa (minor) and in the Canaries small but brown, less greyish, streaking of breast fine, flanks unstreaked. Birds of E Europe (heinei) and Turkey (aharonii) large and greyish, breast finely or diffusely streaked, flanks faintly streaked.
VOICE: Most common call a dry, trilling or buzzing ‘drrrrd’, often slightly falling in pitch or slowing at the end; usually repeated a few times; voice reminiscent of Sand Martin. NB: Short-toed Larks can at times have very similar calls! Song consistently richer, more varied, and pace quicker than Short-toed’s; excellent imitations (incl. of other larks, making identification so much more problematic - can mimic Crested or Short-toed for several seconds!); will mix imitations with own drier trills and softer, piping notes in Thekla fashion. Some phrases shorter, more like Short-toed Lark; mixed-in dry trilling calls and ‘frizzling’ fast pace are then best clues.

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