Status and distribution Common and widespread in southern Europe breeding over much of Iberia and the Balearics, at a few scattered localities in mainly western & southern France, in much of Italy, Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily and Malta and patchily in the Balkans, Crete and Cyprus. Also breeds from Romania north to the Ukraine and east to the northern Caspian region, throughout most of Turkey and the Caucasus and parts of the Middle East. In North Africa breeds from Western Sahara to Tunisia and north-east Libya. Formerly more widespread and range has contracted greatly in France.
Mainly migratory but some populations may be resident or only partial migrants, eg those of the Atlas Mts. Autumn passage period is Aug-Oct and return Mar-Apr.
Vagrants recorded north to Iceland and the British Is, Estonia and Fenno-Scandia and most European countries out of regular range, also on Canary Is, Madeira and the Cape Verde Is.
British records (253+) are mostly on Shetland and Scilly in May and Sep-Oct. There are now 10-30 records per year, spring birds are mainly of the southern races and those in autumn are usually races from the east.
Subspecies 7-8 races have been recorded in the Region but the slight differences in ground colour and markings are mainly clinal and great variation occurs seasonally and within populations. Generally southern birds are sandier and eastern birds greyer, nominate from southern Europe and rubiginosa from North Africa have rusty crown, longipennis from Russia is much greyer with smaller bill and narrower streaks above.
Habitat Open steppe, semi-desert and cultivated plains, in winter also on dried saltmarshes and sand-dunes. In winter frequently associates with flocks of other larks and Corn Buntings.