Lesser Short-toed Lark removed from British list


Lesser Short-toed Lark has been removed from Category A of the British list following a review by the British Ornithologists' Union Records Committee (BOURC).

A recent study proposed that Lesser Short-toed Lark is better treated as four distinct species – namely Asian Short-toed Lark, Mediterranean Short-toed Lark, Sand Lark and Turkestan Short-toed Lark – with the position subsequently adopted by the IOC World Bird List in December 2020. Asian, Mediterranean and Turkestan Short-toed Larks are all possible vagrants to Britain and there is an accepted record of Turkestan Short-toed Lark from Sweden that was confirmed by genetic analysis.

On plumage characteristics alone, Mediterranean and Turkestan Short-toed Larks are considered to be extremely similar, and differ mainly in Turkestan being overall less rufous-tinged than Mediterranean, with on average thinner breast streaks. Asian Short-toed Larks have paler, less blackish brown remiges and rectrices than their sister taxa, and average significantly more white on the outermost tail feather.

Mediterranean Short-toed Lark, Llanos Pelados, Fuerteventura (Lee Fuller).

Turkestan Short-toed Lark, Mandria, Paphos (Matthew Smith).

Asian Short-toed Lark, Ma Chang, Beijing, China (Terry Townshend).

Following these taxonomic revisions, BOURC felt it necessary to investigate if the identification of the sole British record from Portland, Dorset on 2 May 1992 could be established at the species level. A review by both BOURC and the British Birds Rarities Committee (BBRC) found that it was not possible to assign this individual from the original submission – which consisted of written descriptive notes and sketches – to one of the 'new' species, which are extremely similar.

Establishing a species-level identification in this group in the future would likely necessitate very high-quality images and perhaps genetic data and biometrics. Consequently, BOURC voted to reject this record as Mediterranean Short-toed Lark but instead accept the record as the species group Asian/Mediterranean/Turkestan.