Sky Lark – Accepted

1. 16 Dec 1978–19 Feb 1979


Pt. Reyes MRN



Fig. 372, ph., AB 33:311, Roberson (1980), Morlan & Erickson (1983)

and 28 Oct–01 Nov 1979






and 25 Oct 1980–21 Feb 1981






and 3 Nov 1981–03 Jan 1982






and 31 Oct 1982–29 Jan 1983





Fig. 257

and 03–08 Nov 1983






and 27 Oct 1984–17 Feb 1985













Figure 372. One of the more remarkable Asian birds to reach California was the Sky Lark that wintered on Pt. Reyes, Marin County, for seven consecutive years starting in December 1978. The bird was observed and photographed extensively during its visits; this 28 December 1978 image is from Hall Ranch (1979-004; Albert Ghiorso).



Figure 257. In addition to participating in the discovery of 12 elements on the Periodic Table, including einsteinium, nobelium, berkelium, californium, and americium, Albert Ghiorso obtained numerous photos of the Sky Lark that spent parts of seven winters at Pt. Reyes in Marin County. This one, dated 11 November 1982, shows the bird’s buffy supercilium, as well as the slender bill that readily sets this species apart from the longspurs (2004-546; Albert Ghiorso).









Sky Lark

SKY LARK Alauda arvensis Linnaeus, 1758

Accepted: 1 (100%)

Treated in Appendix H: no

Not accepted: 0

CBRC review: all records

Not submitted/reviewed: 0

Color image: see figures

This species comprises 7–16 subspecies that breed across most of Eurasia and in extreme northwestern Africa; Morlan and Erickson (1983) provided a useful summary and analysis. Subspecies arvensis maintains introduced, resident populations in Hawaii and on southern Vancouver Island, British Columbia (and formerly on Washington’s San Juan Islands, now extirpated). Asian subspecies, including A. a. pekinensis, breed east to northeastern Siberia and winter in southern and eastern Eurasia. These birds occur rarely but regularly in the western Aleutian Islands and very rarely elsewhere in western Alaska. All six Sky Larks collected in that state have been identified as pekinensis (Gibson and Kessel 1997), and a pair that bred on St. Paul Island in the Pribilofs in 1995 (Baicich et al. 1996) probably belonged to this subspecies. A bird collected in October 1963 on Kure Atoll, Hawaii, was also thought to be referable to pekinensis (Clapp and Woodward 1968). The few records from coastal British Columbia away from southern Vancouver Island (Campbell et al. 1997, NAB 59:312) and one from northwestern Washington (NAB 53:202) may also involve vagrants of this subspecies.

California’s only Sky Lark, and the first such vagrant to be recorded on the North American mainland, was present from 16 December 1978 to 19 February 1979 at Pt. Reyes in Marin County, a location it returned to for six more winters. For four days this widely seen individual, identified as pekinensis or another Siberian subspecies, was thought to have been a Smith’s Longspur. Amid early fallout stemming from this confusion, and factoring in the species’ extreme rarity and debates over possible collection, Shuford and DeSante (1979) described this as “perhaps the most controversial bird in California’s birding history” (a claim that few would still make in 2007). The record was later evaluated in detail by Morlan and Erickson (1983).