A bird that inspires poetry. A sprite of vastness, openness. Whose name evokes visions of space and freedom. Seen here at rest, ready to spring into the air, ready to pour out its lusty song.
This is the Oriental Skylark (Alauda gulgula). Its cousin, the Eurasian Skylark, inspired the English Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley to pen “To A Skylark”, lines from which are oft quoted to describe the bird.
The Oriental Skylark can be told apart in the field from similar birds like larks, bushlarks and pipits by its densely streaked upperparts, weak crest and the ear coverts, which are chestnut with a darker border in adult birds. Breeding birds also sing a long, merry and continuous song, climbing higher and higher into the sky until they are mere specks, descending to the ground like parachute jumpers and then beginning all over again. It’s a spectacle that never fails to grab my soul.
As we lose grasslands, we lose the birds that are uniquely adapted to these habitats. We see and hear far fewer of these birds than we used to a decade ago. Bring the grasslands back, rethink mindless tree-planting projects, and we will begin to hear the skylark again.
Listen to the skylark’s song in the video, and try to find calls of other birds that this songster is mimicking in the course of its own long soliloquy! Did you discover any?
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