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 Shorelark - Fact File
Eremophila alpestris
Mostly a scarce winter visitor to the north sea coasts of England and Scotland from it's breeding grounds in Scandinavia. Very rarely breeds in Scottish highlands.
Coastal dunes, shingle and rough coastal fields.
Contrasting yellow and black face and throat pattern is best distinguishing feature. Sexes similar but female has duller face and more streaked back. Often occurs as small parties on shorelines.
16 - 17cm (6.5")


The Norfolk coast, renowned for its wealth of wintering wildfowl and waders, continues to attract parties of ever-elusive and enigmatic shorelarks.

These delightful visitors from Scandinavia and northern Russia spend winter days on the windswept saltings, shingle strands and tidelines. East Anglia is, nowadays, one of the few areas still to receive visits from these wanderers from the frozen tundra, well beyond the tree-limit. Here, dry stony patches and rock-strewn shores of fjords are favoured.

During the winter of 1992, shorelarks appeared at Benacre, Breydon Water, Blakeney Point and Titchwell. At the last-named Royal Society for the Protection of Birds reserve, we enjoyed close-up views of a group of 23, busily feeding near the West Bank, leading to the shore.

The birds were constantly on the move, their quiet and unobtrusive progress hiding very considerable speed. At times, part of the flock was hidden from view in vegetation.

Through the telescope, the most noticeable feature was the yellow throat and forehead and broad yellow stripe extending over each eye, contrasting with black cheeks and gorget. At close quarters, you will discern two black horns of feathers, standing devil-like from the top of the crown.

Male Shorlark(left, male shorelark)

On occasions, these shorelarks appeared rather aggressive, chasing one another in flight, twisting this way and that, and uttering high-pitched, kingfisher-like calls.

Shorelarks roost on the ground, often in the shelter of grass clumps on the daytime feeding-grounds. Following heavy snow extensive literature refers to them roosting in pits in the snow, each bird burrowing down until no longer visible by rotating the body, assisted with wing movements. Shorelarks have also been recorded burrowing into haystacks in blizzards.

Most years, shorelarks wintering locally linger here until the end of April, with stragglers to the second week in May. One year — surprisingly — one was discovered inland at Hulver Hill, Litcham

By Rex Hancy

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Illustrations by Dave Nurney from - The Pocket Guide to the Birds Of Britain and North-West Europe By Chris Kightley and Steve Madge
© Pica Press and reproduced with kind permission.