Skip to Content

Lark, Monotonous

Identify and index birds in Southern Africa

Moderator: hilda

User avatar
JoelR
Senior Virtual Ranger
Senior Virtual Ranger
Posts: 510
Joined: Tue Sep 12, 2006 2:36 pm
Location: Pretoria

Re: Identification Help - LBJs

Unread postby JoelR » Mon Dec 08, 2008 3:08 pm

Niall, deefstes, I still need a lot of time in the field to get to grips with these LBJs. But I can't make a FCLark or MonLark of the Pilanesberg bird. Can someone explain why it can't be a Flappet Lark, probably a youngish one because of the funny bill colour and because the plumage isn't as neat as in this photo HERE. :wink: This is interesting! 8)

User avatar
deefstes
Senior Virtual Ranger
Senior Virtual Ranger
Posts: 749
Joined: Mon Dec 05, 2005 1:43 pm
Location: Jo'burg

Ex-Identification Help - LBJs

Unread postby deefstes » Mon Dec 08, 2008 3:59 pm

JoelR wrote:Niall, deefstes, I still need a lot of time in the field to get to grips with these LBJs. But I can't make a FCLark or MonLark of the Pilanesberg bird. Can someone explain why it can't be a Flappet Lark, probably a youngish one because of the funny bill colour and because the plumage isn't as neat as in this photo HERE. :wink: This is interesting! 8)


Joel (and others), birding is a funny thing. You think you have a good amount of field experience and then a bird like this comes along that completely goois you. And, as everyone can see, the pictures are superb, there's nothing wrong with the pics.

I think the problem is, when you see a bird in the field you get a very good feel for its behaviour, its gait, its demeanor and all the things that is usually described by the word "giss". On the other hand, when you look at a picture like this (or two as is the case here), you often fall into a mental groove and you can go back to the pictures as much as you like, you will still only see exactly the same things you saw in it before.

If you had shown me these pictures on another day I may have immediately thought Fawn-coloured Lark and not be easily persuaded otherwise. Moreover, you can show these pics to Etienne Marais or Mostert Kriek and they will identify it for you within mere moments.

What I'm saying is that, despite having seen a fair number of Monotonous Larks, slightly more Melodious Larks and countless Fawn-coloured Larks, I just can't be sure what this bird is.

The reason I'm not considering Flappet Lark is not because of a list of specific morphological features but again, mostly just based on the "giss". (I've started to think that "giss" is just the cop-out answer by many birders who are too lazy to describe the real features :D )

One thing about Flappet Lark though is that the undersides are usually very buff (or rufous or what you want to call it) while this bird has only slightly tinted underparts. That said, this bird has darker underparts than I would have expected from Fawn-coloured Lark.

The other thing where this bird doesn't match Flappet Lark is the colour of the mantle which is mostly grey on Flappet Lark. For the most part it's just the "feel" that I get of this bird which just doesn't fit with Flappet though.

I've had a look at the Pilanesberg pics again and while I'm still far from confident I think I will stick with Monotonous Lark. The throat doesn't seem right for it and just the fact that it was just sitting there in the tree and not bawling its little lungs out also seems very unusual but the shape of the bill really bothers me.

Niall, you saw the bird in the field and I would posit that no-one here can make a better call on the bird than you. I've birded with Niall and he is every bit as clued up as I am on LBJ's so he's probably just being very cautious here. But if you feel that it's a Fawn-coloured Lark then it may well turn out to be one.
"Weaseling out of things is important to learn. It's what separates us from the animals ... except the weasel." -Homer Simpson

User avatar
JoelR
Senior Virtual Ranger
Senior Virtual Ranger
Posts: 510
Joined: Tue Sep 12, 2006 2:36 pm
Location: Pretoria

Re: Identification Help - LBJs

Unread postby JoelR » Mon Dec 08, 2008 4:09 pm

Thanks for the answer, deefstes. IDing from a photo can indeed be a lot harder than in the field, I totally agree. I have only seen Flappet once, Monotonous never and Fawn-coloured quite often. So I am not in a position yet to do too much 'gissing' here... Niall, I would be keen to hear what people like Etienne Marais may have to say so keep us posted!

User avatar
Niall
Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger
Posts: 314
Joined: Tue Nov 13, 2007 2:10 pm
Location: Johannesburg, South Africa

Re: Identification Help - LBJs

Unread postby Niall » Tue Dec 09, 2008 11:28 am

The Lark wasn't behaving like any of the other adults, and it was quite windy, so his position/posture on the branch was not constant. Like Deefstes, I don't think it is Flappet - they are usually much darker and often show a lot of Rufous in the wing. They also generally have darker legs than the Pilanesberg Lark.

I have asked the experts to take a look, but I think even they may have to look a little longer and harder at this one!

Cheers

Niall.

User avatar
Niall
Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger
Posts: 314
Joined: Tue Nov 13, 2007 2:10 pm
Location: Johannesburg, South Africa

Re: Identification Help - LBJs

Unread postby Niall » Wed Dec 10, 2008 2:42 pm

Hi guys

Faansie Peacock has had a look at the pictures and comments as follows:

"This looks like a juvenile Monotonous Lark – they’ve apparently been breeding en masse in Pilanesberg, and also around Vaalkop the last few weeks. The rather short conical bill rules out e.g. Rufousnaped and the Clappers/Flappets. Note juvenile gape flange also. What did you think it was at the time?"

Another comment was that it looks like a Pipit with a Lark's bill! Birding remains interesting, doesn't it!

Cheers

Niall.

User avatar
deefstes
Senior Virtual Ranger
Senior Virtual Ranger
Posts: 749
Joined: Mon Dec 05, 2005 1:43 pm
Location: Jo'burg

Re: Identification Help - LBJs

Unread postby deefstes » Wed Dec 10, 2008 3:08 pm

Niall wrote:
Faansie Peacock wrote:This looks like a juvenile Monotonous Lark


Booyaa! I was just starting to think that I had lost the plot but this is a small relief :D

There was another thing I had meant to point out which may have helped with the ID and that is the strong habitat preference of these birds. The habitat can't be seen from the pics but you might have remembered what it was like.

ML have a very strong preference for open woodland with short grass and often stony ground while FCL prefers broad-leafed woodland and specifically on sandy soil.

I've noticed that some birders (Stephan Terblanche comes to mind) have an amazing ability to identify habitats. They'd enter an area and immediately know what to expect based on the mix of vegetation, topography and geology, making up the habitat. This is something which I think is worth your effort getting to grips with as it certainly helps. I'm trying hard but still lack that broader insight.

One thing I will say is that the combo of broad-leafed woodland on sandy soil, is one habitat that I seem to be able to identify quite readily though and it has helped with finding FCL in the past.

At any rate, that is just another weapon in the birder's arsenal that we shouldn't neglect. Most of these Larks, Pipits, Cisticolas and Warblers, despite being terribly difficult to ID on plumage, at least make life a little easier for us by having pretty unique calls and pretty specific habitat preferences.
"Weaseling out of things is important to learn. It's what separates us from the animals ... except the weasel." -Homer Simpson

User avatar
Niall
Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger
Posts: 314
Joined: Tue Nov 13, 2007 2:10 pm
Location: Johannesburg, South Africa

Identification Help - LBJs

Unread postby Niall » Thu Jan 08, 2009 1:47 pm

I'm very glad you guys are as confuzzed as I was. Thinking Pipit, in a tree? The mystery was solved, as out of view in this pic is the adult having just given the bird a caterpillar.

Image

User avatar
JoelR
Senior Virtual Ranger
Senior Virtual Ranger
Posts: 510
Joined: Tue Sep 12, 2006 2:36 pm
Location: Pretoria

Re: Identification Help - LBJs

Unread postby JoelR » Thu Jan 08, 2009 1:54 pm

That's quite sneaky, Niall! Don't you know most people are on the forum while they're supposed to work. :roll: I also immediately thought of Bushveld Pipit, but was too scared to say 'cause there seemed too many details wrong with that ID... Thanks for this instructive post! 8)

User avatar
Johan van Rensburg
Legendary Virtual Ranger
Legendary Virtual Ranger
Award: Birder of the Year (2014)
Posts: 2620
Awards: Birder of the Year (2014) & Sighting of the Year - Birds (2013)
Joined: Wed Sep 06, 2006 3:33 pm
Location: Jam Street

Re: Identification Help - LBJs

Unread postby Johan van Rensburg » Thu Jan 08, 2009 2:36 pm

Niall wrote:...out of view is the adult having just given the bird a caterpillar.


Nice one... so... somewhere in the background the answer to the booted/Wahlbergs bird lurks... :lol:
671 Latest lifer: Black coucal

User avatar
Eugene123
Posts: 183
Joined: Wed Dec 20, 2006 12:15 pm
Location: West Rand

Re: Identification Help - LBJs

Unread postby Eugene123 » Thu Jan 08, 2009 2:39 pm

Thanks a lot. Deefstes, good to see you here so often
Johan, looks like the challenge is starting to bear fruit
BBW Pretoriuskop 22-26 Jan 2015

User avatar
Niall
Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger
Posts: 314
Joined: Tue Nov 13, 2007 2:10 pm
Location: Johannesburg, South Africa

Re: Identification Help - LBJs

Unread postby Niall » Thu Jan 08, 2009 2:48 pm

Hi JvR -I wish the answer to the Eagles lurked somewhere in the background! :|

User avatar
Meandering Mouse
Legendary Virtual Ranger
Legendary Virtual Ranger
FAC Member (2013)
Posts: 16268
Joined: Tue Jun 07, 2005 8:47 pm
Location: meandering between senility and menopause

Identification Help - LBJs

Unread postby Meandering Mouse » Thu Dec 16, 2010 6:59 pm

Very, very little, close to Phabeni.

Image
The bird doesn't sing because it has answers, it sings because it has a song.

User avatar
Barcud
Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger
Posts: 590
Joined: Wed Sep 30, 2009 8:16 pm

Re: Identification Help - LBJs

Unread postby Barcud » Thu Dec 16, 2010 7:26 pm

Hi again MM,

Sabota Lark for the first one maybe?

User avatar
Meandering Mouse
Legendary Virtual Ranger
Legendary Virtual Ranger
FAC Member (2013)
Posts: 16268
Joined: Tue Jun 07, 2005 8:47 pm
Location: meandering between senility and menopause

Re: Identification Help - LBJs

Unread postby Meandering Mouse » Thu Dec 16, 2010 7:51 pm

If Larks have small bodies and big mouths? :hmz: I am with you on that one... :thumbs_up:

Is this more of the same?

Image
The bird doesn't sing because it has answers, it sings because it has a song.

User avatar
Niall
Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger
Posts: 314
Joined: Tue Nov 13, 2007 2:10 pm
Location: Johannesburg, South Africa

Re: Identification Help - LBJs

Unread postby Niall » Mon Dec 20, 2010 12:18 pm

Hi MM, your Larks look like Monotonous Larks. They sit on a conspicuous perch and call non stop, the call is very distinctive too, unlike the somewhat scratchy call of the Sabota.

Cheers

Niall.


Return to “Birding in Southern Africa”