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Melodious Lark Mirafra cheniana

Justification
This species is listed as Near Threatened because it is suspected to be experiencing a moderately rapid population decline owing to the conversion and modification of its habitat. This decline is likely to continue over the next ten years owing to predicted changes in land-use. Any evidence that suggests the species is experiencing a rapid population decline might qualify it for uplisting to a higher threat category.

Taxonomic source(s)
Dowsett, R. J.; Forbes-Watson, A. D. 1993. Checklist of birds of the Afrotropical and Malagasy regions. Tauraco Press, Li
Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.

Identification
12cm. Small lark with distinct pale supercilium contrasting with brown ear coverts. Rufous wing panel formed from rufous edges of flight feathers. Bill horn coloured, fairly slender. Similar spp. Monotonous Lark M. passerina is larger with less contrasting supercilium, while Pink-billed Lark Spizocorys conirostris has a stouter, pink bill. Voice Protracted song flight with a basic structure of trills and whistles repeated 2-4 times and interspersed with mimicry, with over 70 species mimicked.

Distribution and population
Mirafra cheniana is primarily restricted to South Africa, with a few small, scattered populations in Zimbabwe and Botswana. In South Africa, its range is centred on the northern portion of the Eastern Cape and the Free State, but populations are fragmented and patchy. It also occurs at scattered localities through the Northern Province, North West Province, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. Atlas data suggest it has a maximum range of 110,400 km2.

Population justification
This is a poorly known species and no population estimates are available.

Trend justification
The population is estimated to be in decline following a recent range contraction and threats from the expansion of cultivation, urban development and overgrazing (del Hoyo et al. 2004).

Ecology
The species inhabits grassland slopes, preferring open areas with open spaces between tussocks, typically where grass is shorter than 50 cm, but avoids wetter lowlands (del Hoyo et al. 2004). It forages on the ground, feeding on seeds, mostly of grasses, but also taking some insects. Breeding in South Africa takes place in September-March, mostly in November-January, and in January-March in Zimbabwe. It is probably monogamous and territorial. The nest is a domed structure with a side entrance, constructed with coarse grasses and lined with finer grass leaves. Its clutch-size is 2-4 eggs. It is generally resident, although there are seasonal fluctuations and local movements in response to dry-season fires (del Hoyo et al. 2004).

Threats
It appears to be sensitive to overgrazing, and has disappeared from heavily grazed areas in the Northern Cape and in KwaZulu-Natal at Matatiele, where it was common in the early 1900s. Crop-farming and industrialisation have also transformed a large proportion of its favoured grassland habitat. Land-use changes in the next 20 years may severely impact this species. Some habitat in Zimbabwe has been lost to bush encroachment (del Hoyo et al. 2004). The species may be threatened by climate change, as its preferred grassland habitat requires a specific rainfall regime (del Hoyo et al. 2004).

Conservation Actions Underway
No targeted conservation action is known for this species.
Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct surveys to obtain a total population estimate. Monitor population trends through regular surveys. Monitor rates of habitat loss and degradation. Encourage grassland management that favours the species.

References
Barnes, K. N. 2000. The Eskom Red Data Book of birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. BirdLife South Africa, Johannesburg.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Christie, D. 2004. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 9: Cotingas to Pipits and Wagtails. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
O'Brien, A., Taylor, J.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2014) Species factsheet: Mirafra cheniana. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 01/09/2014. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2014) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 01/09/2014.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Melodious lark (Mirafra cheniana) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Near Threatened
Family Alaudidae (Larks)
Species name author Smith, 1843
Population size Unknown mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 245,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- Projected distributions under climate change