|Latin name:||Melanocorypha yeltoniensis|
Appearance and behavior. Noticeably larger than a field lark, of dense physique, with a massive conical beak. Spends a lot of time on the ground, often sitting down on small trees and bushes. The flight is free and powerful. Body length 18–21 cm, wingspan 37–43 cm, mass of males 56–76 g and females 51–68 g.
Description. Males and females differ markedly in color, in addition, the male is about 10% larger than the female. The males in the mating outfit are almost entirely dull black, only on the covering feathers of the back and head do they partially retain unworn white borders. The female is grayish-brown above, with pale brownish-gray fringes of feathers, dirty white below, with dark brown streaks on the chest and sides, underwings are black. The feathers and tail feathers of both males and females are black or blackish. There is a small notch on the tail. The beak is light straw, in males it is bluish, conical in shape. Legs are dark gray or blackish. Males in fresh autumn feathers are black with whitish or buffy edges of feathers masking the black color on the head, back, sides, and nuhvost. In females in fresh feathers, the color intensity varies from grayish-brown to very light. In birds of both sexes, the light fringes of feathers gradually wear out, and by spring the females darken, and the males become completely black.
Young birds in the nesting feather are similar to females, but their bright feather borders are wider. Thanks to the black plumage, males are well distinguished from other species of larks; they differ from similarly sized starlings by a denser physique, a thick conical light bluish, and not a yellow beak. Females resemble steppe larks, however, they are well distinguished from them by dark gray legs and the absence of a white border along the inner edge of the wing, which is seen in flying birds. The lower wing coverts are coal-black, darker than the feathers of the wings.
Vote. The song is typical, similar to the songs of the field and steppe larks, is an almost continuous stream of beautiful whistles, trills and murmurs. It differs from the song of the Lark by a large number of different murmurs and high trills, slightly resembling the babbling song of young starlings. In the air, it sings, flying low above the ground, during a current flight, the slow flapping of the wings alternates with short moments of planning, in contrast to other species, the characteristic rhythmic flapping is accompanied by the popping of wings above the back. Very often she sings, sitting on a low squat, for example, on the top of a bush, a stone or a column, often takes specific current poses, raising her tail, revealing and slightly lowering her wings. The calls are mostly high two-syllable and monosyllabic tweets, slightly similar to the white wagtail’s calls: “tsirip», «civilian», «psi», «psit", In addition, often uses a call, very similar to that of a white-winged lark and resembling a short nasal meow.
Distribution, status. The range almost coincides with the range of the white-winged lark. Breeds in the steppe zone of Russia and Kazakhstan west to the Volga and east to Altai. Over the past decades, the breeding range has decreased, and the number has decreased due to the development of the steppes and the creation of forest shelter belts. In Russia, now a rare species, in Kazakhstan is quite common. Winters throughout the former nesting range, choosing areas with low snow cover. Quite often during the wintering season, flocks are found north of the breeding range.
Lifestyle. It inhabits cereal and wormwood steppes, adheres to areas with a rare and low grass stand, choosing places for nesting along steppe roads or on the banks of water bodies. Breeds in separate pairs. A typical nest for larks is an open bowl in a hole on the ground, often under the cover of a jacket of grass, a tray is made of wormwood stalks, a lining of thin grasses. In the clutch there are 3–7 dirty white, greenish or bluish eggs with abundant olive, brown or rusty spots, which usually thicken at the blunt end of the egg. The female incubates masonry, both parents feed the chicks. Chick in sandy ocher down, orange mouth, with three black dots on the tongue. Perhaps breeds twice per season.
The food is mixed, with a predominance of animal feed: in the spring-summer period they feed mainly on invertebrates, in autumn and winter - grass seeds. They regularly fly to a watering place. In non-nesting time they migrate in large flocks, males and females are often separately.
Black Lark (Melanocorypha yeltoniensis)
Inhabits dry wormwood, feather-grass fescue steppes and salt marshes. Common wandering bird. In nesting time it is kept in pairs, the rest - in packs, with males and females form separate flocks. Feeds on the ground. Sings, sitting on the ground or taking off in the air. A song is a set of trills and imitations of the voices of other birds. The nest is placed in a hole in the ground. Clutch of 4-5 pale ocher eggs with brown specks in April - June.
Unlike other larks, the male has a black coloration. Females and young differ from the steppe lark by the absence of black spots on the sides of the neck.