WOODLARK (Lullula arborea)


This secretive bird is most common on wooded heathlands in the South of England. While hard to spot, their song can be heard all year round, but they are most often seen in the winter months when they gather in feeding flocks of up to 60 individuals. While most individuals are resident here, small populations like that in northern Wales will only spend the winter months here.

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Alert Status:

Alert Status: Green

Estimated number of UK breeding

Estimated number of breeding pairs: 2300 (2016)

Listen to Woodlark song:


The woodlark is a streaky brown bird with a white belly and breast with some streaking continuing in the breast and throat. Their head is a streaky brown with a spikey crest which can be flat or raised, they are the only UK with an eyebrow stripe (supercilium) that connects at the back of their head. They have an oddly short tail which separates them from the larger skylarks which has a longer tail and prefers farmland and grassland habitat.

Average Length: 15 cm

Average Lifespan: 3 years.

Average Wingspan: 19.5 - 24 cm

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Woodlark diet

During the winter months woodlarks mainly eat seeds and feeding flocks can be seen searching for food. They tend to eat more invertebrates such as spiders and caterpillars during the breeding season.

Woodlark Breeding and nesting information

This monogamous species begins breeding in March, the nest is a depression in the ground, usually amongst vegetation to provide cover. The male may help make the hole but usually the female lines the depression with leaves and moss. 3-5 eggs are laid in the nest and incubated by the female for 14 days. After hatching they are fed by both parents for 11-13 days before they leave the nest. Woodlarks can produce 2-3 broods before the breeding season ends in July.

Threats to Woodlarks

Woodlarks have increased in the past due to increased habitat availability and ground disturbance which improved available nesting availability. However, while woodlarks are green-listed, their relatively small population in the UK makes them susceptible to future losses. The main concern for this species is habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation. This species is a specialist in wooded heath and damage to these habitats will likely drive declines. In mainland Europe, afforestation is leading to losses of suitable habitat and driving population declines. As woodlarks are ground nesting, direct human disturbance or the loss of suitable vegetation cover can cause nest failures. Changes in winter weather are also thought to impact the population.

How you can help

Petition for the protection of suitable habitats for this species.

Be careful when walking near populations during the breeding season and keep dogs on leads to avoid damaging nests.  

Fascinating Fact

Robert Burns is thought to have mistakenly identified a tree pipit as a woodlark in his poem ‘Address to the Woodlark’, as woodlarks are not known to visit Scotland.
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BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Lullula arborea. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/woodlark-lullula-arborea. Accessed: 20/10/2023.

Bosco, L., Cushman, S. A., Wan, H. Y., Zeller, K. A., Arlettaz, R., & Jacot, A. (2021). Fragmentation effects on woodlark habitat selection depend on habitat amount and spatial scale. Animal Conservation, 24(1), 84–94. https://doi.org/10.1111/ACV.12604

British Trust for Ornithology (2023) Woodlark | BTO - British trust for ornithology. Available at: https://www.bto.org/understanding-birds/birdfacts/woodlark. Accessed: 20/10/2023

Hawkes, R. W., Smart, J., Brown, A., Jones, H., & Dolman, P. M. (2019). Experimental evidence that ground-disturbance benefits Woodlark Lullula arborea. Ibis, 161(2), 447–452. https://doi.org/10.1111/IBI.12696

RSPB (2023) Woodlark, RSPB. Available at: https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/woodlark. Accessed: 20/10/2023

Takacs, V., Mizera, T., Kujawa, D., & O’Brien, C. D. (2020). Can’t see the Woodlark for the trees? Commercial forests as a habitat for a bird of conservation concern. Forest Ecology and Management, 476. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2020.118409  

Wright, L. J., Hoblyn, R. A., Green, R. E., Bowden, C. G. R., Mallord, J. W., Sutherland, W. J., & Dolman, P. M. (2009). Importance of climatic and environmental change in the demography of a multi-brooded passerine, the woodlark Lullula arborea. Journal of Animal Ecology. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2656.2009.01582.x  

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