Irish Name: Fuiseog
Scientific name: Alauda arvensis
Bird Family: Skylarks
Conservation status


Common resident throughout Ireland in uplands and areas of farmland, especially cereal.


A rather non-descript species, with much brown and black streaking. Adult Skylarks have a prominent white supercilium and frequently raise their crown feathers to form a little crest. Juveniles have much of the black streaking replaced by spotting and lack the crest. When flushed from the ground, keeps close to the ground unlike the similar Meadow Pipit which typically rises straight up.


Rather vocal. Commonest call is a “chirrup” or “trrrp” given in flight. The song, which can be heard from February/March to June, is a distinctive continuous stream of warbling notes. It can last up to half an hour and is usually given while the bird is flying 50 to 100 metres overhead.


Skylarks feed on a variety of insects, seeds and plant leaves.


Breeds in a variety of habitats including cultivated areas, ungrazed grasslands and upland heaths.


Usually moves out of breeding areas to winter in flocks on stubble fields, grasslands and coastal areas. Birds from continental Europe arrive in variable numbers from September and depart March/April.

Monitored by

Countryside Bird Survey.

Blog posts about this bird

Kilcoole Little Tern Project

Kilcoole Terns it up to 11!

  The last couple of weeks at the Kilcoole Little Tern conservation project have been pretty hectic; nests hatching, chicks running and bad weather looming! Since my last update the wardens have found our 312th nest and have ringed almost 350 chicks. We are well on our way to having another good year!  
Little Tern chick being weighed as part of biometric data collection (A. McManus, photo taken under NPWS license)
  We are now past the peak of the season, with fewer than 15 active clutches of eggs left in the colony. However, the work has not stopped. We are busy collecting biometric data on all the ringed chicks. For this we collect the wing length and weight of the chicks every day that we manage to find them. This allows us to determine the growth rate for chicks this year and compare it to previous years.  
Thunderstorm over Kilcoole, Summer 2020 (C. Webb)
  Although the colony has been doing well overall with over 300 chicks ringed and alive, it has not been entirely unscathed, with 29 chicks dying as a result of the bad weather during the month of June. Luckily the thunderstorm passed overhead without causing any damage, or toasting any wardens!   [embed][/embed]
Little Tern chick hatching at Kilcoole (E. Hogan, video taken under NPWS license)
  This season has also seen a new study undertaken at the colony. We have had the pleasure of working with Eilis Hogan, who is currently finishing her masters in Environmental Leadership at NUIG. Eilis was using GoPro cameras to read colour-rings on our nesting Little Terns, allowing us to know how old they are, where they came from originally, and in some cases find out if they're birds that previously nested at other colonies. Eilis has found birds nesting in the colony which have originated from Kilcoole, Baltray (Co. Louth) and even some from Wales. As well as reading rings, Eilis was able to study feeding during the incubation and chick-rearing stages. Understanding better the feeding ecology of our Little Terns will be crucial to their continued conservation.  
Green colour rings on the left leg of these Little Terns tell us these birds are originally from the Kilcoole colony (E. Hogan, video taken under NPWS license)
The yellow ring on the right leg of this Little Tern tells us this bird originally hatched as a chick in Wales (E. Hogan, video taken under NPWS license)
  Other than terns, we have also had Ringed Plover and Oystercatchers nesting in the colony, and although we haven’t been closely monitoring their numbers this year, they all appear to have hatched and produced fledglings. We also found a Skylark nest within the Marram grass this season. All these species have benefited from the lack of disturbance and protection from predators within our fencing, and all seem to be doing well.  
Skylark chicks in a well-hidden nest in a tussock of grass, inside our predator-proof fence (A. McManus, photo taken under NPWS license)
Well-camouflaged Ringed Plover chicks and egg, inside our predator-proof fence (A. McManus, photo taken under NPWS license)
    As the season now enters the wind-down phase, the beach seems to be getting quieter, and some of Kilcoole’s fledglings have now been spotted as far out as the Portrane.  

That’s all the news we have for now!

All the best from Andrew & The Kilcoole 2020 team.


This year's work to protect and monitor the Little Terns and other nesting birds on Kilcoole Beach would not be possible without funding from  the National Parks and Wildlife Service in Wicklow.

To revisit news and blogs from previous years at the Kilcoole LittleTern project, click here.

Policy and Advocacy

More than 3,600 scientists demand radical change to EU agriculture policy to protect nature

Scientists propose new ten step plan to reform the Common Agricultural Policy in order to fight the biodiversity and climate emergency Scientists from all EU countries and beyond, including 58 from Ireland, declare that the European Commission’s proposal for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) post-2020 must be ”drastically improved” in order to reverse damage to the environment and to restore nature. They propose ten urgent actions to reform the CAP for long-term food security, biodiversity conservation, climate mitigation with farmers livelihoods central. If adopted, evidence-based, planet-friendly farming would finally begin to reverse the serious impacts to the environment from the CAP across the EU including Ireland. The current CAP is a central driver of the biodiversity and climate emergencies, and is also failing on socio-economic challenges for rural areas [1] but it doesn’t have to be this way. Currently, the criteria to receive CAP payments are inadequate: the CAP is both unfairly distributed, and it funds practices that can cause significant biodiversity loss, climate change, and soil, land and water degradation. In Ireland, CAP-supported results-based agri-environment schemes and European Innovation Projects that are trialling measures to improve on-farm biodiversity as well as climate measures are promising. Overall though, ambitious national agriculture intensification policies, supported by a problematic CAP structure, have worked against, and not with, objectives to halt and reverse biodiversity loss causing severe damage especially in farmland bird populations. The scientists’ propose ten actions for the ecological transition of agriculture that are also applicable to Ireland. To achieve this, they say that the CAP should stop funding destructive practices and significantly step up support for farmers’ transition to nature-friendly farming, including at least 10% of all farmland area to be devoted to natural habitats, such as hedgerows, wetlands or wildflower margins and significant support for High Nature Value farming. The scientists express concern that national governments and the Agriculture Committee of the European Parliament are diluting the environmental ambitions of the CAP in order “to defend the interests of a few at the expense of the many”. At present, the main factor determining how much “income support” a CAP recipient gets is the size of their farm: 80% of these payments goes to 20% of farmers. This means that farmers are stuck in a system where those with the most land receive most of the money, regardless of the environmental quality of their farming – with smaller farmers often with more high nature value farmland, losing out. Welcoming the scientists’ declaration, Oonagh Duggan, Assistant Head of Advocacy at BirdWatch Ireland says: “This statement from thousands of scientists is unprecedented and comes at a crucial point. Elected members of Dáil Éireann and the European Parliament declared a biodiversity, environmental and climate emergency in the last year and now they must act like it in upcoming CAP, EU budget, and EU Green Deal decision making”. “All of the environmental indicators that relate to agriculture in Ireland are going in the wrong direction, with farmland birds declining, wild bee species threatened with extinction, water quality declining, and EU protected habitats in bad condition while agriculture greenhouse gas emissions are projected to continue to increase [2][3]. Our part of the planet cannot take this degradation and neither can farmers who depend on the environment too”. “The CAP really needs three key things to restore nature on farmland: dedicated space for nature on all farms and ramped up support for High Nature Value farmers, money for nature protection and a just transition for farmers to environmentally friendly farming. Critically, Ireland’s next AgriFood 2030 strategy must provide the vision for this transition to environmentally friendly farming, otherwise we can expect further negative results for Ireland’s biodiversity. Donal Sheehan, dairy farmer from Castlelyons, Co. Cork says, “The present CAP is not fit for purpose. The next CAP needs to reward farmers who are delivering on biodiversity, water quality and carbon sequestration. All of these ecosystem services are as important as food production, but at present they seem to be considered worthless. Small famers need to be supported in such a way that every farmer is valued for their contribution to a vibrant rural economy.” Paul Moore, tillage farmer from East Cork : “If the CAP is working so well for tillage farmers, why has the area of tillage nationally dropped by 20% since 2008?  A change of focus in CAP could support populations of some of our most iconic farmland birds and help to sustain the tillage sector in Ireland." Notes: [1] As it stands, almost 60 billion euros of EU taxpayer money is spent every year on CAP subsidies that mostly fund intensive and factory farming. The CAP budget accounts for nearly 40% of the total EU budget. The intensive agriculture model it promotes directly leads to biodiversity loss, water and air pollution, and the over-extraction of water, and it also contributes to the climate crisis. Reforming the CAP is urgent: the EU has lost 57% of its farmland birds since 1980. Butterflies, bees and flying insects are also in serious decline. [2] Two thirds of Ireland’s regularly occurring wild bird species are Red or Amber-listed Birds of Conservation Concern, including farmland birds like Curlew, Lapwing, Yellowhammer, Barn Owl etc. Colhoun K. & Cummins, S. 2013 Birds of Conservation Concern in Ireland 2014-19. Irish Birds 9:523-544 : available here [3] 85% of EU-protected habitats have ‘bad’ status, with 70% of those habitats impacted negatively by agriculture, according to the Article 17 report from the National Parks and Wildlife Service to the European Commission on the Status of Ireland’s EU-protected habitats and species available, pg 84 here : NOTES Evidence-based recommendations made by scientists and other stakeholders in Ireland (see CAP4Nature here). What is wrong with the CAP? Read the 260-page Fitness Check, indicating both environmental and socioeconomic weaknesses. What makes the European Commission proposal for the CAP post-2020 weak? Read Pe’er et al. 2019, science (open access links); download the 65-page supplementary materials (PDF) Why are the scientists concerned about further watering down? Read COMAGRI’s vote of 2 April 2019 for proposed amendments here, and the initial proposal made by the Member States’ Council here. See an expression of concern by 15 NGOs on the watering down of CAP Conditionality rules here. See Open Letter by professional societies of ornithologists, mammalogists, herpetologists and butterfly experts here.

Similar Species

Meadow Pipit

Irish Name:
Riabhóg Mhóna
Scientific name:
Anthus pratensis
Bird Family: