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|Eurasian skylark (Alauda arvensis)|
Larks are passerine birds of the family Alaudidae. Larks have a cosmopolitan distribution with the largest number of species occurring in Africa. Only a single species, the horned lark, occurs in North America, and only Horsfield's bush lark occurs in Australia. Habitats vary widely, but many species live in dry regions.
A passerine is any bird of the order Passeriformes, which includes more than half of all bird species. Sometimes known as perching birds or – less accurately – as songbirds, passerines are distinguished from other orders of birds by the arrangement of their toes, which facilitates perching.
Birds, also known as Aves or avian dinosaurs, are a group of endothermic vertebrates, characterised by feathers, toothless beaked jaws, the laying of hard-shelled eggs, a high metabolic rate, a four-chambered heart, and a strong yet lightweight skeleton. Birds live worldwide and range in size from the 5 cm (2 in) bee hummingbird to the 2.75 m (9 ft) ostrich. They rank as the world's most numerically-successful class of tetrapods, with approximately ten thousand living species, more than half of these being passerines, sometimes known as perching birds. Birds have which are more or less developed depending on the species; the only known groups without wings are the extinct moa and elephant birds. Wings, which evolved from forelimbs, gave birds the ability to fly, although further evolution has led to the loss of flight in flightless birds, including ratites, penguins, and diverse endemic island species of birds. The digestive and respiratory systems of birds are also uniquely adapted for flight. Some bird species of aquatic environments, particularly seabirds and some waterbirds, have further evolved for swimming.
The horned lark, called the shore lark in Europe, is a species of lark in the Alaudidae family found across the northern hemisphere.
The family Alaudidae was introduced in 1825 by the Irish zoologist Nicholas Aylward Vigors as a subfamily Alaudina of the finch family Fringillidae.Larks are a well-defined family, partly because of the shape of their . They have multiple scutes on the hind side of their tarsi, rather than the single plate found in most songbirds. They also lack a pessulus, the bony central structure in the syrinx of songbirds. They were long placed at or near the beginning of the songbirds or oscines (now often called Passeri), just after the suboscines and before the swallows, for example in the American Ornithologists' Union's first check-list. Some authorities, such as the British Ornithologists' Union and the Handbook of the Birds of the World , adhere to that placement. However, many other classifications follow the Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy in placing the larks in a large oscine subgroup Passerida (which excludes crows, shrikes and their allies, vireos, and many groups characteristic of Australia and south-eastern Asia). For instance, the American Ornithologists' Union places larks just after the crows, shrikes, and vireos. At a finer level of detail, some now place the larks at the beginning of a superfamily Sylvioidea with the swallows, various "Old World warbler" and "babbler" groups, and others. Molecular phylogenetic studies have shown that within the Sylvioidea the larks form a sister clade to the Panuridae family which contains a single species, the bearded reedling (Panurus biarmicus). The phylogeny of larks (Alaudidae) was reviewed in 2013, leading to the recognition of the arrangement below.
Nicholas Aylward Vigors was an Irish zoologist and politician. He popularized the classification of birds on the basis of the quinarian system.
The pessulus is a delicate bar of cartilage connecting the dorsal and ventral extremities of the first pair of bronchial cartilages in the syrinx of birds.
The swallows, martins and saw-wings, or Hirundinidae, are a family of passerine birds found around the world on all continents, including occasionally in Antarctica. Highly adapted to aerial feeding, they have a distinctive appearance. The term Swallow is used colloquially in Europe as a synonym for the barn swallow. There are around 90 species of Hirundinidae, divided into 19 genera, with the greatest diversity found in Africa, which is also thought to be where they evolved as hole-nesters. They also occur on a number of oceanic islands. A number of European and North American species are long-distance migrants; by contrast, the West and South African swallows are non-migratory.
The family Alaudidae contains 98 extant species which are divided into 21 genera:For more detail, see list of lark species.
Alaemon is a genus of birds in the Alaudidae family.
Chersomanes is a genus of larks in the Alaudidae family found in southern and south-eastern Africa.
Gray's lark is a species of lark in the family Alaudidae. It is found in south-western Africa in its natural habitat of hot deserts.
Larks, which are part of the family Alaudidae, are small- to medium-sized birds, 12 to 24 cm (4.7 to 9.4 in) in length and 15 to 75 g (0.5 to 2.6 oz) in mass.
Like many ground birds, most lark species have long hind claws, which are thought to provide stability while standing. Most have streaked brown plumage, some boldly marked with black or white. Their dull appearance camouflages them on the ground, especially when on the nest. They feed on insects and seeds; though adults of most species eat seeds primarily, all species feed their young insects for at least the first week after hatching. Many species dig with their bills to uncover food. Some larks have heavy bills (reaching an extreme in the thick-billed lark) for cracking seeds open, while others have long, down-curved bills, which are especially suitable for digging.
Camouflage is the use of any combination of materials, coloration, or illumination for concealment, either by making animals or objects hard to see (crypsis), or by disguising them as something else (mimesis). Examples include the leopard's spotted coat, the battledress of a modern soldier, and the leaf-mimic katydid's wings. A third approach, motion dazzle, confuses the observer with a conspicuous pattern, making the object visible but momentarily harder to locate. The majority of camouflage methods aim for crypsis, often through a general resemblance to the background, high contrast disruptive coloration, eliminating shadow, and countershading. In the open ocean, where there is no background, the principal methods of camouflage are transparency, silvering, and countershading, while the ability to produce light is among other things used for counter-illumination on the undersides of cephalopods such as squid. Some animals, such as chameleons and octopuses, are capable of actively changing their skin pattern and colours, whether for camouflage or for signalling. It is possible that some plants use camouflage to evade being eaten by herbivores.
Insects or Insecta are hexapod invertebrates and the largest group within the arthropod phylum. Definitions and circumscriptions vary; usually, insects comprise a class within the Arthropoda. As used here, the term Insecta is synonymous with Ectognatha. Insects have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body, three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes and one pair of antennae. Insects are the most diverse group of animals; they include more than a million described species and represent more than half of all known living organisms. The total number of extant species is estimated at between six and ten million; potentially over 90% of the animal life forms on Earth are insects. Insects may be found in nearly all environments, although only a small number of species reside in the oceans, which are dominated by another arthropod group, crustaceans.
Seed predation, often referred to as granivory, is a type of plant-animal interaction in which granivores feed on the seeds of plants as a main or exclusive food source, in many cases leaving the seeds damaged and not viable. Granivores are found across many families of vertebrates as well as invertebrates ; thus, seed predation occurs in virtually all terrestrial ecosystems. Seed predation is commonly divided into two distinctive temporal categories, pre-dispersal and post-dispersal predation, which affect the fitness of the parental plant and the dispersed offspring, respectively. Mitigating pre- and post-dispersal predation may involve different strategies. To counter seed predation, plants have evolved both physical defenses and chemical defenses. However, as plants have evolved seed defenses, seed predators have adapted to plant defenses. Thus, many interesting examples of coevolution arise from this dynamic relationship.
Larks are the only passerines that lose all their feathers in their first moult (in all species whose first moult is known). This may result from the poor quality of the chicks' feathers, which in turn may result from the benefits to the parents of switching the young to a lower-quality diet (seeds), which requires less work from the parents.
In many respects, including long tertial feathers, larks resemble other ground birds such as pipits. However, in larks the tarsus (the lowest leg bone, connected to the toes) has only one set of scales on the rear surface, which is rounded. Pipits and all other songbirds have two plates of scales on the rear surface, which meet at a protruding rear edge (Ridgway 1907).
Larks have more elaborate calls than most birds, and often extravagant songs given in display flight.These melodious sounds (to human ears), combined with a willingness to expand into anthropogenic habitats — as long as these are not too intensively managed — have ensured larks a prominent place in literature and music, especially the Eurasian skylark in northern Europe and the crested lark and calandra lark in southern Europe.
Male larks use song flights to defend their breeding territory and attract a mate. Most species build nests on the ground, usually cups of dead grass, but in some species the nests are more complicated and partly domed. A few desert species nest very low in bushes, perhaps so circulating air can cool the nest.Larks' eggs are usually speckled. The size of the clutch is very variable and ranges from the single egg laid by Sclater's lark up to 6-8 eggs laid by the calandra lark and the black lark. Larks incubate for 11 to 16 days.
Larks, commonly consumed with bones intact, have historically been considered wholesome, delicate, and light game. They can be used in a number of dishes; for example, they can be stewed, broiled, or used as filling in a meat pie. Lark's tongues were particularly highly valued. In modern times, shrinking habitats made lark meat rare and hard to come by, though it can still be found in restaurants in Italy and elsewhere in southern Europe.
The lark in mythology and literature stands for daybreak, as in Chaucer's "The Knight's Tale", "the bisy larke, messager of day" (I.1487; Benson 1988), and Shakespeare's Sonnet 29, "the lark at break of day arising / From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate" (11–12). The lark is also (often simultaneously) associated with "lovers and lovers' observance" (as in Bernart de Ventadorn's Can vei la lauzeta mover) and with "church services" (Sylvester and Roberts 2000), and often those the meanings of daybreak and religious reference are combined (in Blake's Visions of the Daughters of Albion , into a "spiritual daybreak" (Baine and Baine 1986)) to signify "passage from Earth to Heaven and from Heaven to Earth" (Stevens 2001). In Renaissance painters such as Domenico Ghirlandaio the lark symbolizes Christ, in reference to John 16:16 (Cadogan 2000).
Traditionally larks are kept as pets in China. In Beijing, larks are taught to mimic the voice of other songbirds and animals. It is an old-fashioned habit of the Beijingers to teach their larks 13 kinds of sounds in a strict order (called "the 13 songs of a lark", Chinese: 百灵十三套). The larks that can sing the full 13 sounds in the correct order are highly valued, while any disruption in the songs will decrease its value significantly (Jin 2005).
The thrushes are a family, Turdidae, of passerine birds with a worldwide distribution. The family was once much larger before biologists determined the subfamily Saxicolinae, which includes the chats and European robins, were Old World flycatchers. Thrushes are small to medium-sized ground living birds that feed on insects, other invertebrates and fruit. Some unrelated species around the world have been named after thrushes due to their similarity to birds in this family.
Old World warblers are a large group of birds formerly grouped together in the bird family Sylviidae. The family held over 400 species in over 70 genera, and were the source of much taxonomic confusion. Two families were split out initially, the cisticolas into Cisticolidae and the kinglets into Regulidae. In the past ten years they have been the subject of much research and many species are now placed into other families, including the Acrocephalidae, Cettiidae, Phylloscopidae, and Megaluridae. In addition some species have been moved into existing families or have not yet had their placement fully resolved. A smaller family of warblers, together with some babblers formerly placed in the family Timaliidae and the parrotbills, are retained in a much smaller family Sylviidae.
The pipits are a cosmopolitan genus, Anthus, of small passerine birds with medium to long tails. Along with the wagtails and longclaws, the pipits make up the family Motacillidae. The genus is widespread, occurring across most of the world, except the driest deserts, rainforests and the mainland of Antarctica.
Sylviidae is a family of passerine birds that includes the typical warblers, parrotbills, the wrentit, and a number of babblers formerly placed within the Old World babbler family. They are found in Eurasia, Africa, and the west coast of North America.
The Old World flycatchers are a large family, the Muscicapidae, of small passerine birds mostly restricted to the Old World. These are mainly small arboreal insectivores, many of which, as the name implies, take their prey on the wing. The family includes 324 species and is divided into 51 genera.
The Old World babblers or Timaliidae are a family of mostly Old World passerine birds. They are rather diverse in size and coloration, but are characterised by soft fluffy plumage. These are birds of tropical areas, with the greatest variety in Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent. The timaliids are one of two unrelated groups of birds known as babblers, the other being the Australasian babblers of the family Pomatostomidae.
The parrotbills are a group of peculiar birds native to East and Southeast Asia, though feral populations exist elsewhere. They are generally small, long-tailed birds which inhabit reedbeds and similar habitat. They feed mainly on seeds, e.g. of grasses, to which their bill, as the name implies, is well-adapted. Living in tropical to southern temperate climates, they are usually non-migratory.
The bearded reedling is a small, sexually dimorphic reed-bed passerine bird. It is frequently known as the bearded tit, due to some similarities to the long-tailed tit, or the bearded parrotbill. It is the only species in the family Panuridae.
The Cisticolidae family of small passerine birds is a group of about 160 warblers found mainly in warmer southern regions of the Old World. They were formerly included within the Old World warbler family Sylviidae.
Tailorbirds are small birds, most belonging to the genus Orthotomus. While they were often placed in the Old World warbler family Sylviidae, recent research suggests they more likely belong in the Cisticolidae and they are treated as such in Del Hoyo et al. One species, the mountain tailorbird, is actually closer to an old world warbler genus Cettia.
The monarchs comprise a family of over 100 passerine birds which includes shrikebills, paradise flycatchers, and magpie-larks.
The Horsfield's bush lark is a species of lark which inhabits grassland throughout most of Australia and much of Southeast Asia.
Passerida is, under the Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy, one of two parvorders contained within the suborder Passeri. While more recent research suggests that its sister parvorder, Corvida, is not a monophyletic grouping, the Passerida as a distinct clade are widely accepted.
Stenostiridae, or the fairy flycatchers, are a family of small passerine birds proposed as a result of recent discoveries in molecular systematics. They are also referred to as stenostirid warblers.
Locustellidae is a newly recognized family of small insectivorous songbirds ("warblers"), formerly placed in the Old World warbler "wastebin" family. It contains the grass warblers, grassbirds, and the Bradypterus "bush warblers". These birds occur mainly in Eurasia, Africa, and the Australian region. The family name is sometimes given as Megaluridae, but Locustellidae has priority.
Sylvioidea is a superfamily of passerine birds, one of at least three major clades within the Passerida along with the Muscicapoidea and Passeroidea. It contains about 1300 species including the Old World warblers, Old World babblers, swallows, larks and bulbuls. Members of the clade are found worldwide, but fewer species are present in the Americas.
The African warblers are a newly erected family Macrosphenidae, of songbirds. Most of the species were formerly placed in the Old World warbler family Sylviidae, although one species, the rockrunner, was placed in the babbler family Timaliidae. A series of molecular studies of the Old World warblers and other bird families in the superfamily Sylvioidea found that the African warblers were not part of the family Sylviidae but were instead an early offshoot (basal) to the entire Sylvioidea clade.
The jungle babblers, Pellorneidae, are mostly Old World passerine birds belonging to the superfamily Sylvioidea. They are quite diverse in size and coloration, and usually characterised by soft, fluffy plumage and a tail on average the length of their body, or longer. These birds are found in tropical zones, with the greatest biodiversity in Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent.
The Mongolian short-toed lark or Sykes's short-toed lark is a species of lark in the Alaudidae family. It breeds in China and Mongolia and winters in southern Asia.
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