Lesser Short-toed Lark Alaudala rufescens


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.

Population justification
In Europe, the breeding population is estimated to number 1,570,000-3,010,000 pairs, which equates to 3,130,000-6,020,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015).

Trend justification
The population is estimated to be in decline following to recorded regional declines, owing to ongoing habitat loss (del Hoyo et al. 2004). The European population is estimated to be decreasing (BirdLife International 2015).


This species favours open land with shrubs and grasses, and with a high percentage of bare ground. In the Mediterranean basin it selects areas with average shrub height of 50 cm and bare ground c. 60% and it often prefers saltmarshes with glasswort (Salicornia) in the winter (de Juana and Suárez 2004). Egg-laying occurs from April to June, although begins in March in the Canary Islands (Snow and Perrins 1998). The nest is a small scrape on the ground beside a small shrub or tuft, or in the open and lined with vegetation. Normally three to four eggs are laid. The diet varies seasonally between invertebrates and seeds. In the spring it feeds mostly on invertebrates and in winter mostly seeds with a mix of the two consumed in summer. Fruits and bulbs are also taken. In Iberia, the species is sedentary although post-breeding it groups into flocks that move erratically (de Juana and Suárez 2004). In the east, it behaves similarly although it can leave large parts of Russia in the winter (Hagemeijer and Blair 1997). In North Africa the species is reported to make larger movements. Central and eastern populations are migratory, partly migratory or sedentary (de Juana and Suárez 2004).


The species is threatened by habitat loss as a result of agricultural expansion, touristic developments (de Juana and Suárez 2004), the abandonment of traditional grazing and urbanisation. Along the Iberian coast, the commercial extraction of sand is also a threat (Tucker and Heath 1994). In some areas heavy predation is a threat, for example on Tenerife introduced predators such as rats (Rattus), cats and hedgehogs (Erinaceus) are a problem (de Juana and Suárez 2004).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
Bern Convention Appendix II. There are currently no known conservation measures for this species within Europe.

Conservation Actions Proposed
The area of suitable habitat which is either under protection or covered by management agreements should be increased. Actions that destroy habitat, such as human developments and sand extraction should be restricted. The afforestation of areas of high conservation interest should be prevented and no grants for forestry schemes should be available for these areas. The maintenance of traditional grazing practices would prevent excessive shrub regeneration. The effects of predators should be monitored (Tucker and Heath 1994).


Text account compilers
Ashpole, J, Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J. & Taylor, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Alaudala rufescens. Downloaded from on 03/12/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 03/12/2021.