Family Larks (Alaudidae)

Least Concern

Lesser Short-toed Lark (Alaudala rufescens)


French: Alouette pispolette German: Stummellerche Spanish: Terrera marismeña

A[lauda]. rufescens


, 1819,

#R, Tenerife, Canary Islands


Previously considered conspecific with A. somalica, and separately with A. raytal, but considerable differences in morphology, song and habitat choice. Geographical variation marked and complex; E races often treated as a separate species “C. cheleensis”, largely on grounds of reported overlap of races heinei and leucophaea in region from Turkmenistan to S Kazakhstan, but differences between these taxa moderate, evidence of this overlap and their reproductive independence still tenuous#R, and unclear which taxa should be included within “C. cheleensis#R—usually those E from Turkmenistan, although some authors have included races from as far W as Ukraine (heinei) and C Turkey (“niethammeri” = aharonii); further study needed. Race tangutica sometimes merged with kukunoorensis, and stegmanni with beicki. Birds from Transbaikalia named as race obscura, but indistinguishable from cheleensis; others from Tuva Republic and NW Mongolia described as tuvinica, synonymized with seebohmi but possibly a valid race; niethammeri (C Turkey) is a synonym of aharonii#R. In past, species sometimes listed under older name pispoletta, but precise identity of this name is uncertain. Sixteen subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • A. r. rufescens (Vieillot, 1819) – Lesser Short-toed Lark – Tenerife, WC Canary Is (probably extinct#R).
  • A. r. polatzeki (E. J. O. Hartert, 1904) – E Canary Is (Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote).
  • A. r. apetzii (A. E. Brehm, 1857) – S Portugal and S & E Spain.
  • A. r. minor (Cabanis, 1851) – N Africa (from S Morocco E to NW Egypt) and from S Turkey S to N Sinai Peninsula and E to C Iraq.
  • A. r. nicolli (E. J. O. Hartert, 1909) – Nile Delta (N Egypt).
  • A. r. heinei (Homeyer, 1873) – Ukraine E to E Kazakhstan (Semipalatinsk region), S to Aral Sea and Syr Darya Valley; probably winters in the Middle East and SW Asia.
  • A. r. aharonii (E. J. O. Hartert, 1910) – C Turkey (Anatolian High Plateau); winters S to C Syria.
  • A. r. pseudobaetica (Stegmann, 1932) – E Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan and NW Iran.
  • A. r. persica Sharpe, 1890 – E & S Iraq, Iran (except NW) and W & SE Afghanistan; some populations winter in lowlands of Pakistan and W India.
  • A. r. leucophaea (Severtsov, 1873) – Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan (S of Kyzylkum Desert) and W & S Kazakhstan E to L Balkhash and Fergana Basin; winters in SW Asia.
  • A. r. seebohmi Sharpe, 1890 – S Russia (Tuva), W Mongolia and extreme NW China (Xinjiang, from Tien Shan S to Kashgaria, E to R Hotan); N populations migrate farther S.
  • A. r. beicki (Meise, 1933) – SW Mongolia and bordering areas of N China (Gansu, Ningxia).
  • A. r. stegmanni (Meise, 1937) – NC China (NW Gansu).
  • A. r. kukunoorensis Przevalski, 1876 – WC China (Qaidam Basin, in N Qinghai).
  • A. r. tangutica (E. J. O. Hartert & F. Steinbacher, 1933) – S Qinghai and NE Tibet.
  • A. r. cheleensis Swinhoe, 1871 – Asian Short-toed Lark – Transbaikalia, NE Mongolia and NE China (S Heilongjiang and Inner Mongolia S to S Shaanxi and N Jiangsu); N populations migrate farther S.
  • Descriptive notes

    13–14 cm; c. 20–27 g. Short-billed, small, heavily streaked lark with whitish narrow supercilium and wide eyering, short, thick-based bill, shortish broad-based... read more


    Song, mostly in flight, sometimes from ground or low perch, varied and vivacious, a continuous... read more


    Open land with shrubs and grasses, and with high percentage of bare ground. Usually in level... read more

    Food and feeding

    Invertebrates and seeds; fruits and bulbs also taken. Diet varies seasonally, mainly invertebrates in spring, mixed in summer, and... read more


    Laying from mid-Mar in Canary Is and Israel; elsewhere Apr–Jul, mainly May–Jun; often two broods, sometimes three. Probably... read more


    W populations resident, and sedentary or wandering in small flocks, but in N Africa larger... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Rather common throughout very extensive range; locally scarce, but in some places abundant. Often localized, but attaining high densities in... read more

    Recommended citation

    de Juana, E. & Suárez, F. (2019). Lesser Short-toed Lark (Alaudala rufescens). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 18 November 2019).