A skylark chirping

Help save the song of the skylark

Every year, in early spring, a familiar evocative song returns to the grasslands of Richmond and Bushy Parks.

The rise and fall of the skylark song as they feed, nest, and defend territory is a sound that has inspired people for centuries.

Once an extremely common sight on the open ground, the skylark is now a red-listed species signifying their dramatic decline in numbers. We’re asking everyone in Richmond and Bushy Parks to help to as much as possible to help protect skylark in the parks, both during breeding season and all year round.

The skylark

The skylark is a small, streaked brown bird, larger than a sparrow but smaller than a starling. It has a white-sided tail, and the rear edge of the wing is also white and visible in flight.

These ground-nesting birds breed from February to September and advertise their territories by a spectacular song-flight, during which the bird rises almost vertically with rapid wingbeats, hovering for several minutes and then parachuting down. Song flights of up to one hour have been recorded, and the birds can reach 1,000 feet before descending.

Skylark dustbathing in a molehill
© Nick Goodrum, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Dustbathing in a molehill

Problems facing skylarks

Due to pressure from increasing visitor numbers, the skylark population within Richmond Park and Bushy Park has declined rapidly.

It is predicted that without urgent action, this species may be lost from the parks. This would result in the loss of two of the closest populations of skylark to central London.

Skylark among wildflowers
© Standbild-Fotografie, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Among the wildflowers

What you can do to help

Richmond and Bushy Parks have designated skylark protection zones (see highlighted zones on the downloadable maps, below) where dogs must be kept on leads and visitors are asked to keep to certain paths.

This is to prevent anything disturbing nesting skylarks and trampling their nests, to try and improve breeding success and help protect this ‘red-listed’ threatened species.

Skylark with a green caterpillar in its beak
© Daniel Pettersson, CC BY-SA 2.5 SE, via Wikimedia Commons
A green caterpillar for dinner

Skylark protection zones in Richmond Park:

•    Lawn Field (by Pen Ponds)
•    Crown Field (between the sports pitches and Bone Copse)
•    The Bog (between Bog Gate and Sheen Gate)

Skylark protection zones in Bushy Park:

•    Grassland to the south of Oval Plantation and west of Hampton Wick cricket ground

Further reading

  • View of the Diana Fountain in spring

    Bushy Park

    Welcome to Bushy Park, the second largest of London’s eight Royal Parks at over 1000 acres, home to wild deer and located north of Hampton Court Palace.

  • iIabella Plntation in spring

    Richmond Park

    Welcome to Richmond Park, one of London’s eight Royal Parks, covering 2,500 acres and home to ancient trees, herds of deer and the Isabella Plantation.

  • Longford River in Bushy Park in spring

    Nature & wildlife

    Life flourishes in the Royal Parks, and we want to keep it thriving for decades to come.

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