Skylark (alauda arvensis) sitting in heather, South Stack RSPB reserve, Wales

Nesting and breeding habits

Skylarks are ground-nesting birds and will breed from April to early August. Spring temperatures trigger the start of the breeding season.

About the nest

Their choice of nesting site is influenced by the height and density of the crop - the ideal vegetation height is 20-50 cm. 

Skylarks generally make 2-3 nesting attempts in the same area of farmland during a long breeding season. They will stop nesting if the vegetation becomes too tall or dense to allow them easy access.

Skylarks advertise their territories by a spectacular song-flight, during which the bird rises almost vertically with rapid wing-beats, hovering for several minutes and then parachuting down. Song flights of up to one hour have been recorded, and the birds can reach 1,000 feet before descending.

The nest is a hollow on the ground, lined by the female with leaves, grasses and hair.

A skylark perched on a fence post with a caterpillar in its bill.

Breeding

She lays 2-6 grey-white, thickly spotted eggs, and incubates them for 11 days. Both parents feed the chicks on insects for their first week, then gradually introduce small quantities of shoots and seeds for a mixed diet.

Skylarks need to 2-3 broods of young each year in order to maintain populations. Most cereals are now sown during the autumn, which means that the crops are too tall and dense to allow skylarks to raise more than one early brood. 

Spring-sown cereals allow skylarks to make later nesting attempts, but have disappeared from most regions of Britain. A reduction in the number of nesting attempts is probably one of the main causes of skylark population declines in Britain. 

On livestock farms, skylarks often nest in grass silage fields where frequent mowing causes many nests to be destroyed or predated.  

Skylark Alauda arvensis, at the grassy edge of a small field. Cornwall