Bimaculated lark (Melanocorypha bimaculata)

Also known as: black-breasted lark, calandra lark, calandra-lark, eastern calandra lark, eastern calandra-lark
French: Alouette calandre orientale
GenusMelanocorypha (1)
SizeLength: 17 - 18 cm (2)
Weight47 - 62 g (2)

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

A black-streaked, ground-dwelling bird, the cryptic plumage of the bimaculated lark offers excellent camouflage against its dry, grassy habitat. The heavily-streaked upperparts are grey-brown, and the underparts are whitish to pale brown. A prominent white stripe stretches through the eyes, and a black line runs between the eyes and the base of the bill (2). There is also a conspicuous black-brown crescent-shaped patch on the upper-breast (3). The long wings and short tail are dark grey-brown, and the heavy bill and legs are yellow or pinkish. The male and female bimaculated lark are similar in appearance, although the female is typically smaller in size, but the juvenile has a whitish scaled appearance on the upperparts (2). Due to its camouflaged plumage and habitat of crouching motionless to escape danger, this bird is more often heard than seen, and can also be identified by its sweet, twittering song and harsher, more grating calls (2) (3) (4).   

The bimaculated lark breeds in Turkey and much of the Caucasus in Eastern Europe, and across several countries in Central Asia and the northern parts of the Middle East (2) (5). Before the onset of winter, it migrates southwards to warmer climates in north-east Africa, the southern Middle East and northern Arabian Peninsula, and north-west India (2).   

A bird of open country, the bimaculated lark inhabits rocky mountainous or hilly areas, with stony slopes and short grass (2) (6). It has been recorded up to altitudes of around 1,500 metres in Turkey and 2,000 metres in Kazakhstan (6) (7).   

The bimaculated lark forages on the ground for a variety of invertebrates and seeds, all the while walking and running rather than hopping like most other birds. It breeds from late-March through to mid-August, and at the start of the breeding season the male attracts a mate by singing while flying in irregular circles with slow, jerky wing-beats. Once a pair bond is established, the female builds a loose, cup-shaped nest out of grass and roots, in a depression in the ground that is sheltered by a tussock of grass or a small bush. A clutch of three to six eggs (usually four or five) is laid and incubated by the female for around 13 or 14 days. The young leave the nest after 9 to 12 days, but they cannot fly until they reach around 15 to 16 days of age (2).

The bimaculated lark has a huge global population, with one million breeding birds estimated to reside in the European part of its range alone in 1994, and is therefore not currently considered to be threatened with extinction (5) (8). It is, however, like other birds of open country and cultivation, potentially vulnerable to land-use changes and the use of pesticides (8). It is also kept as a pet song bird in parts of its range (3). In Sudan, the bimaculated lark is considered a pest species, as large feeding flocks can damage crops, and is actively poisoned as a control measure (9).  

In the absence of any major threats to the bimaculated lark, it has not been the target of any specific conservation measures (8).

To find out more about the conservation of birds, see:

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  1. IUCN Red List (September, 2010)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (2004) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 9: Cotingas to Pipits and Wagtails. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. Lawrence, W.R. (1895) The Valley of Kashmir. London H. Frowde, London.
  4. Firouz, E. (2005) The Complete Fauna of Iran. I. B. Tauris Publishers, London.
  5. BirdLife International. (2004) Birds in Europe: Population Estimates, Trends and Conservation Status. NHBS, Totnes.
  6. Birds of Kazakhstan (September, 2010)
  7. Jonsson, L. (1980) Birds of the Mediterranean and Alps. Croom Helm, London.
  8. BirdLife International (September, 2010)
  9. El Sadwig Awad Beshir Plant Protection Department  (1978) The Black-breasted Lark (Melanocorypha bimaculata), a Pest of Sorghum in Butana Region, Gezira Province, Sudan. Proceedings of the 1978 Vertebrate Pest Conference, University of Nebraska.