Desert lark (Ammomanes deserti)

French: Ammomane du désert
GenusAmmomanes (1)
SizeLength: 15 - 16.5 cm (2)
Wingspan: 18 cm (2)
Weight20 - 30 g (2)

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

The desert lark is, as its name suggests, an inhabitant of deserts around the world (3). Twenty-four subspecies are recognised, each occupying a separate geographical location and showing marked differences in size and plumage colour (4). Generally, the feathers on the desert lark’s back are sand-coloured, which contributes greatly towards camouflage in its sandy habitat (5). The underside is pale pinkish, the tail is reddish-brown, and it has a thick, yellow bill, suitably adapted for its seed-based diet.  Male desert larks can be heard producing a trilled, whispery ‘choo-wee-chacha-wooee’ during flight when trying to attract a female (4).

The desert lark is found in arid desert environments across 37 different countries in south-west Asia, northern Africa and the Middle East (1).

The desert lark is mostly found in lowland desert environments, but populations also occur in semi-arid deserts. Within these habitats it spends most of its life on dry, rocky slopes, avoiding sandy areas (6), and in many places groups can be found along roadsides (4).  

The desert lark’s breeding season is determined by rainfall (7), with egg-laying generally occurring between March and April in northern regions, and between January and April in southern areas (8). The male attracts a mate by singing during flight, and after a breeding pair has been established, the female builds a cup-like grass nest in a shallow depression in the ground, bordered by a stone or sand rim (4). The orientation and structure of the nest are vitally important, as they help the eggs avoid high midday temperatures, which may exceed an incredible 50 degrees Celsius in some parts of the desert lark’s range (3). A clutch of between three to five eggs is laid (8) (9), and incubated for ten to eleven days, after which time the chicks are brooded and fed a diet of insects. About 13 days after hatching, the chicks leave the nest and start to develop adult plumage (5).

The majority of the desert lark’s diet is composed of small seeds and insects, which it forages for on the ground (6). Although the desert lark is not migratory, individuals may disperse to lower elevations after the breeding season (4).

The desert lark is common in most parts of its range and is therefore not currently considered to be at risk of extinction (1). 

There are no known conservation measures currently in place for the desert lark.

Authenticated (01/09/10) by Geoff Welch, Chairman of OSME Council,

  1. IUCN Red List  (March, 2010)
  2. Maclean, G.L. (1996) The Ecophysiology of Desert Birds. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Germany.
  3. Shkedy, Y. and Safriel, U.N. (1992) Niche breadth of two lark species in the desert and the size of their geographical ranges. Ornis Scandinavica, 23(1): 89-95.
  4. 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.
  5. Perrins, C. (2009) Encyclopedia of Birds. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  6. Couzens, D. (2008) Top 100 Birding Sites of the World. University of California Press, Berkley.
  7. Maclean, G.L. (1996) Avian Adaptations to Deserts of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Bulletin Number 17, Curtin University of Technology.
  8. Welch, G. (2010) Pers. comm.
  9. Whitfield, P. (1988) The Macmillan Illustrated Encyclopedia of Birds: a Visual Who’s Who in the World of Birds. Collier Books, New York.