Justification of Red List category
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
In Europe, the breeding population is estimated to number 44,300,000-78,800,000 pairs, which equates to 88,700,000-158,000,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). Europe forms c.30% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 295,600,000-526,600,000 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed. National population estimates include: c.10,000-100,000 breeding pairs and c.1,000-10,000 individuals on migration in China; < c.50 individuals on migration and < c.50 wintering individuals in Taiwan; c.10,000-100,000 breeding pairs and c.1,000-10,000 wintering individuals in Korea; c.10,000-100,000 breeding pairs and c.1,000-10,000 wintering individuals in Japan and c.10,000-100,000 breeding pairs and c.1,000-10,000 individuals on migration in Russia (Brazil 2009).
The population is estimated to be in decline following marked regional declines in recent decades linked to agricultural intensification (del Hoyo et al. 2004). In Europe, trends between 1980 and 2013 show that populations have undergone a moderate decline (p<0.01) (EBCC 2015).
This species is found in most open habitats and has a strong association with farmland throughout its range, but it also occurs on heathland and moorland, meadows, grassland, steppe, edges of marshes, dunes and even in extensive forest clearings. It generally avoids wooded areas and xeric habitats, with taiga representing a barrier in the north of Eurasia and deserts and arid steppes a barrier in the south. Breeding occurs from late March or early April to August and September in most of the range. It is monogamous but the female builds the nest alone. It is in an excavated scrape or natural depression on the ground among short vegetation filled with a thick layer of grass and lined with finer vegetation. Clutches are normally three to five eggs. It feeds on invertebrates, seeds and other plant material. The diet is seasonal; primarily insectivorous in summer and herbivorous in the winter (Donald and Garcia 2014). The species is predominantly resident but with some short-distance dispersive movement in western and southern Europe and across the southern and eastern limits of the range in Asia. Birds in northern and central Europe and across much of Asia migrate after breeding (Donald and Garcia 2014).
The main cause of decline in this species is agricultural intensification. Recent research indicates the principal causes are changes in management of cereal-growing and grassland (leading to reduced nesting and foraging opportunities, and diminution of food resources (Donald and Garcia 2014). In grasslands high fertiliser applications lead to vegetation that is too tall and dense for nesting. The heavy use of pesticides and herbicides is thought to negatively impact this species too (Tucker and Heath 1994). High hunting pressure in some countries poses an additional threat (Donald and Garcia 2014).
Conservation Actions Underway
EU Birds Directive Annex II. An EU Species Management Plan was developed in 2007. The species is listed as threatened on the national Red Lists of Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands and the U.K. and is legally protected in 14 countries within the EU (Petersen 2007).
Conservation Actions Proposed
This species requires wide-scale conservation measures. These include the maintenance of crop diversity, leaving stubble fields over winter and reductions in the use of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. In the U.K., it was found that cutting and cultivation of set aside land should be delayed until July to avoid destroying nests (Tucker and Heath 1994). Data on the numbers of this species harvested annually should be collected to ensure numbers are sustainable and the sex ratio of birds collected should also be monitored to prevent an imbalance (Petersen 2007).
Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Martin, R., Ashpole, J, Ekstrom, J.
BirdLife International (2024) Species factsheet: Alauda arvensis. Downloaded from https://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/eurasian-skylark-alauda-arvensis on 29/02/2024.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2024) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from https://datazone.birdlife.org on 29/02/2024.