Over the last month or so I have been aware of the call of several Common Skylarks in the paddock opposite our place. This is an introduced species to Australia. It is essentially a ground dwelling bird of open grasslands and is slightly larger than a House Sparrow. I do not have a photo of this species to show you, for I more frequently hear it than see it.
What is interesting about this species here in Murray Bridge, South Australia, is that I hear it calling well before dawn. I usually leave home at about 6:15am to go to a friend’s house nearby for a morning walk. In the middle of June it is still quite dark (and cold at that time; first light is about 6:30am and the birds are calling well before that.
During the day when working in the garden I will often hear it calling again during the day. The call seems to carry long distances and continues for long periods of time. It is especially apparent during calm, sunny days.
I have always been of the impression that this is a migratory species in Australia. I have checked in HANZAB (Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds). There is some conjecture as to the actual movement of this species in Australia. Some say there is movement in autumn/winter while others contest this opinion. It could be that individuals – or even whole populations – are more or less resident year round, but they only call for part of the year.
The population near my home is destined to disappear during the next 3 – 4 years. A large government institution is about to be build right where the birds live. Then I’ll have to go a little further afield to see or hear them. [UPDATE: this facility has been postponed for several years.]
On a Tasmanian ‘Twitchathon’ a couple of years ago, we were up well before dawn to get to a Lagoon, to try to see what extra ticks we could pick up for the race. By far the earliest birds calling were the Skylarks, mostly giving their ‘fluttering-flight’ calls, from high up in the sky, even before it began to get light!
Hi there John,
I’m not normally a ‘lark’ myself, but this year while studying I’ve been getting up at 6am to go for a walk with my wife and a friend of hers – takes a lot of discipline on these frosty mornings.
I agree, Trevor,
I always tell people they can ring me at midnight, but don’t ring me at 6:00am! More of an owl than a fowl!
We get them here in Tas too (as mentioned above) but it was a very common bird where I lived in Scotland. In spring and summer you would here the males singing away all over the place but they would be hard to spot as they are often quite high up. If you do spot one it will be hovering on the spot or perhaps still working it’s way ever upwards until suddenly it will drop and parachute back down into the grass. Great birds!
I draw the line at about 10:30pm these days John – with galloping maturity I need more sleep now. Having said that – I am staring at too many midnights recently trying to get my Uni assignments in on time – I usually pay for it next day.
You are spot on Alan – I’ve actually heard far more than I’ve seen. Nice bird whichever way you tick it in the note book.