Bar-tailed Desert Lark (Ammomanes cinctura) is like typical forms of Desert Lark, but smaller, with a slightly shorter tail, thinner legs, smaller and more domed head, and a shorter, weaker, and more pointed bill. It is also called The Bar-tailed Lark, which is almost uniform sandy buff but has a greyish wash above, slightly darker breast sides, and pale cinnamon-rufous wings.
It lacks any form of streaking (easily differentiating it from short-toed larks of the genus Calandrella), but in very close views weak darker mottling may be visible on the center of the breast. The bar-tailed desert lark is a species of lark in the family Alaudidae found from Morocco to Pakistan.
During the flight, the pale rufous flight feathers contrast well with the otherwise mainly sandy plumage, especially on the underside. However, the outer primaries have dusky tips that form a dark trailing edge. But the distinctive tail pattern (rump and tail pale rufous, latter with the clear-cut blackish terminal band) can be difficult to discern, and best seen if the bird spreads its tail when alighting.
This Bar-tailed Desert Lark’s natural habitat is hot deserts and in many places, it is considered as a common species, but elsewhere rather less common. Bar-tailed Desert Lark plumage can be closely matched by some forms of Desert. But the latter has a relatively larger head, with a flatter crown and longer, almost thrush-like bill (bill of Bar-tailed more bunting like, and often yellower).
Typical forms of Desert have whitish throat and upper breast, with diffuse darker streaking on the breast, and rest of underparts pinkish- or rufous-buff. Moreover, Bar-tailed has a whitish belly as well as throat, with breast and flanks washed with buff and little or no streaking on the breast.
Further, Desert Lark usually has greyish-brown centers to tertials, while Bar-tailed is usually pale rufous, although there is some overlap. Several forms of Desert have rufous wings and tails, and some of these are smaller and shorter-billed than is typical, so caution is required.
Further, the tail the pattern always differs, however, with Desert never showing clear-cut blackish a terminal band like Bar-tailed but instead a broad, diffuse dark triangle, pointing towards the tail base (while dark reaches almost to tail base on central feathers in Desert, it is restricted to terminal third in Bar-tailed).
Additionally, Bar-tailed appears to be daintier, with more spindly legs and holds fore-body higher off ground than Desert, which typically adopts a more crouched posture, with legs less conspicuous. Runs well, but jerkily. Flight is jerky and bounding. Generally shyer and less approachable than Desert, with a marked preference for flat desert, Desert preferring hilly or rocky slopes. See also female Black-crowned Sparrow-lark and Dunn’s Lark.
Sexes similar. Juvenile has narrow pale fringes to feathers of upper parts and narrow dark tips to crown feathers, which are lost at post-juvenile molt. Dark tips to outer primaries are often indistinct or lacking.
Occasionally utters a short, soft chirruping ‘jupp’, a more buzzing ‘prreet’ or a thin, high ‘see-ou’ in flight. Song distinctive: one or two weak, short ‘zik’ notes followed by a prolonged, penetrating, squeaky, rising ‘st’eeeeeeeee’.
The latter is the most audible part of a song unless the bird is close and sounds not unlike a squeaky gate being slowly opened. Uttered from the ground, or in strongly undulating yo-yo-like song flight. Alternatively, at least in some areas, a longer, three-part ‘turr-ree tre-le tree-tree-you’.
Nominate race confined to Cape Verde Is, is rather darker and sandier-more rufous than race arenicolor, which occupies the remainder of the range in our region.
Relatively local but not uncommon in suitable habitats. Seemingly more localized in the east of our region than in Sahara. Flat stony or sandy desert or semi-desert, with sparse low vegetation.
Also Read: The Orange-breasted Bunting / The fire-tailed myzornis