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26

Rufous Songlark

(Cincloramphus mathewsi)
Alternative names: Alternate name(s): "Rufous-rumped Singing-lark", "Singing Lark*", "Skylark*"
Aboriginal name(s): "yedjoolop*" (WA)

Size: 19 cm (male), 16 cm (female) [averages]
Weight: 29 g (average)

Similar species

Description     Classification     Distribution     Sightings     Photos     Breeding     Nest     Eggs     Behaviour     Food     Call/s

Physical description

Click here for a physical description

Taxonomy, classification

See Rufous Songlark at Wikipedia .

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range

Sightings

Click here for sighting information

Photos

ADULT

MALE

Frontal view of a male Rufous Songlark in a treetop; note the greyish appearance in harsh light
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2007]

Frontal view of a male Rufous Songlark; note the brownish appearance in mellow light (photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[Boolardy Station, Murchison, WA, August 2016]

Near-frontal view of a male Rufous Songlark on an old fencepost (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Spring Gully Road, North Ensay, East Gippsland, VIC, January 2014]

Near-dorsal view of a male Rufous Songlark; note the greyish appearance in bad light (photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[Boolardy Station, Murchison, WA, August 2016]

Dorsal view of a male Rufous Songlark
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, November 2006]

Dorsal view of a Rufous Songlark hiding in the underbrush of open woodland
[Near Barraba, NSW, October 2012]

FEMALE

Near-frontal view of a female Rufous Songlark sheltering in a Wilga tree
[Eulah Creek, NSW, December 2012]

Here a curious female Rufous Songlark inspecting the photographer who had stopped his car on a dirt road
[October 2008]

Lateral view of a female Rufous Songlark
[Eulah Creek, NSW, January 2008]

IMMATURE/JUVENILE

Frontal view of an immature Rufous Songlark in our rural garden
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, December 2005]

Near-frontal view of an immature Rufous Songlark
[Eulah Creek, NSW, February 2013]

Close-up frontal view of the underside of an immature Rufous Songlark
[Eulah Creek, NSW, February 2013]

Lateral view of an immature Rufous Songlark
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, December 2005]

Lateral view of an immature Rufous Songlark
[Eulah Creek, NSW, February 2007]

Immature Rufous Songlark, now seen at a different angle
[Eulah Creek, NSW, February 2007]

Fledgling Rufous Songlark calling to be fed
[Maules Creek, NSW, December 2011]

Its sibling had the same idea
[Maules Creek, NSW, December 2011]

Frontal view of a fledgling Rufous Songlark recovering in a tree after a cat attack
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2014]

Lateral view of a fledgling Rufous Songlark recovering in a tree after a cat attack
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2014]

Breeding information

Breeding season: Aug - Feb Eggs: 3 - 4 Incubation period: 11 days Fledging age: ca. 12-13? days

Note that Rufous Songlarks have a very short incubation period.

Nest building: Female Incubation: Female Dependent care: Female

While the male marks his territory, the female takes on the full load of caring for the offspring, from start to finish.

Nest

"bungobittah", "malunna" = nest [Aboriginal]

Type: Basket Material: Grass Height above ground: N/A

Rufous Songlarks are ground-nesting birds.

View from above into a Rufous Songlark's nest that was found in tall grass right by the side of a road; the (third and) youngest chick of this clutch has just hatched and the female has not yet removed the broken egg shell (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Doctors Flat Road, Ensay South, East Gippsland, VIC, November 2015]

This female Rufous Songlark is the owner of the nest shown above (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Doctors Flat Road, Ensay South, East Gippsland, VIC, November 2015]

Somewhere under this African Boxthorn or in the wild growth next to it, all of which are located under a eucalypt tree, there is a Rufous Songlark nest; we did not try to find the nest itself
[Narrabri, NSW, October 2013]

Male Rufous Songlark marking its territory, singing right next to the undergrowth with the nest and the female
[Narrabri, NSW, October 2013]

Female Rufous Songlark coming out of the undergrowth to have a quick look at what is going on outside, before vanishing again
[Narrabri, NSW, October 2013]

Eggs

"boyanga", "booyanga", "derinya", "dirandil", "koomura", "ngampu", "nooluk", "pateena" = Egg; "dirundirri" = eggs [Aboriginal]; "gawu" = eggs [gamilaraay]

Size: 23 x 17 mm Colour: Light-brown, with copious dark-brown speckles Shape: Tapered oval

View from above into a Rufous Songlark's nest that was found in tall grass right by the side of a road; the (third and) youngest chick of this clutch has just hatched and the female has not yet removed the broken egg shell (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Doctors Flat Road, Ensay South, East Gippsland, VIC, November 2015]

Behaviour

Social behaviour: Territorial Mobility: Migratory Elementary unit: Pair

The males are prolific singers, either while perched as shown in a photo below or in flight. The display flight is slow, while chirping with curved back. They move around various conspicuous places to mark the boundaries of their territory.

We have noticed that the point in time when male Rufous Songlarks start marking their territories is very sensitive on local conditions. There are differences over distances as short as a few km, with only a tiny change in altitude over such a distance, with the birds at higher altitude starting singing later than those below. At the start of the 2016 breeding season we heard a male Rufous Songlark singing at Pilliga in late July, when further to the East, towards the Great Dividing Range, their counterparts were still silent.

Male Rufous Songlark starting its territorial song
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2007]

Here the female Rufous Songlark he is trying to lure; she is sitting lower in the same tree
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2007]

Different male Rufous Songlark issuing its call from a vantage point (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Spring Gully Road, North Ensay, East Gippsland, VIC, January 2014]

This is the male Rufous Songlark whose calls were recorded on 2 October 2014
[Near Narrabri, NSW, October 2014]

Rufous Songlarks are ground-nesting birds. As such they need tall grass and/or messy undergrowth for nesting. In 2009 we slashed our paddock in winter and removed messy undergrowth. Since then we have not seen Rufous Songlarks on our property (although we do leave tall grass standing on parts of the property at a distance of 200 m from the house). This may relate to the fact that we regularly observe feral cats in the area.

Female Rufous Songlark cocking its tail, in a way very similar to Rufous Bush Robins
[Eulah Creek, NSW, December 2012]

A Rufous Songlark was spotted by us at Eulah Creek, 20 km East of Narrabri, in August 2008, i.e. at the end of winter, when the nights still brought regular frost. It is not clear whether they had left for the winter (which was mild overall) or had decided to stay, like other normally migratory birds. The day after major rainfall, with associated northerly ahead of the front, the first territorial calls started ringing around the property at the beginning of September 2008. As a contrast, territorial calls of a Rufous Songlark could be heard around our place in the 2010/11 season starting in December.

Male Rufous Songlark "ducking" like a duck
[Eulah Creek, NSW, January 2008]

Food, Diet

We have seen a Rufous Songlark take a small spider (photo below).

Male Rufous Songlark with what looks like the round body of a Red-backed Spider
[Near Narrabri, NSW, September 2015]

Female Rufous Songlark bringing a small spider for its chicks (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Doctors Flat Road, Ensay South, East Gippsland, VIC, November 2015]

Call(s)/Song

For this species we have recorded the following call(s)/song. The interpretation of their meaning is our own; comments and suggestions for improvement are welcome.

Rufous Songlarks will usually call only during the breeding season.

rufslrk_20141006_5.mp3 (NW NSW) Contact calls (male) © MD
rufslrk_20141006_2.mp3 (NW NSW) Terr. song (male display flight) © MD
rufslrk_20141002_8.mp3 (NW NSW) Terr. call (male display flight) © MD
rufslrk_20141006_4.mp3 (NW NSW) Female resp. to male display © MD
rufslrk_20141006.mp3 (NW NSW) Male chasing female © MD
rufslrk_20141002_9.mp3 (NW NSW) Various (incl. display flight) © MD
rufslrk_20141002_6.mp3 (NW NSW) Various (incl. display flight) © MD
rufslrk_20160202_4.mp3 (NW NSW) Immature (babbling?) © MD

These pages are largely based on our own observations and those of our contributors. The structure of these bird pages is explained HERE. For more salient facts on any bird species please refer to a field guide.

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