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Botha's Lark Spizocorys fringillaris
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This species is listed as Endangered because it is believed to have undergone a very rapid population decline owing to habitat destruction for agriculture, which is projected to continue into the future.

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.

12-13 cm. Small lark with flesh-pink-bill and heavily streaked upperparts. Buffy underparts show heavily streaked breast-band contrasting with white throat. Stubby bill. Similar spp. Differs from Pink-billed Lark S. conirostris in less conical pink bill, paler underparts and white outer tail feathers. Voice Repeated chiree, and a chuk flight call during breeding and when with recently fledged young.

Distribution and population
Spizocorys fringillaris is an endemic resident of South Africa, with a very restricted distribution centred on south Mpumalanga and the eastern Free State. The global population has been estimated at 1,500-5,000 individuals. It is generally uncommon, but where it is locally common it can be found at densities of up to 1/km2. Habitat loss suggests a concomitant population decline, and there is substantial evidence for local decreases and possibly local extinction events. Sight records from the Memel-Vrede-Warden-Harrismith arc, and near Kroonstad and Wesselbron (although no recent records to confirm presence here, D. Maphisa in litt. 2012), suggest that there may be previously overlooked populations in the eastern Free State. Less than 1% of the global population is currently within protected areas (Evans et al. 1999).

Population justification
The global population has been estimated at 1,500-5,000 individuals, roughly equivalent to 1,000-3,300 mature individuals.

Trend justification
Habitat loss suggests that a very rapid population decline is taking place, and there is substantial evidence for local decreases and possibly local extinction events.

It is restricted to well-grazed upland grasslands, mostly coincident with black clay soils, known as Moist Clay Highveld Grassland. During breeding, it prefers short, dense, severely grazed natural grassland on plateaux and upper hill slopes, avoiding rocky areas, taller grass in bottomlands, vleis, croplands and planted pastures. It makes local movements in small parties outside the breeding season, favouring fallow land and severely grazed, seasonally burnt and trampled patches in low-lying areas (Evans et al. 1999, Maphisa et al. 2009). Maphisa in litt. 2007). It feeds on invertebrates and seeds, and appears dependent on surface water (Keith et al. 1992). The average clutch size has been recorded as two (Maphisa et al. 2009). The incubation period is 13-14 days followed by a fledging period of c.13 days (Maphisa et al. 2009).

Arable agriculture and, to a lesser extent, forestry have transformed nearly 80% of suitable habitat. Commercial afforestation was considered a serious potential threat, especially along the Mpumalanga escarpment, but is belied to have largely ceased (D. Maphisa in litt. 2012). It is also threatened by mining, although plans for the exploration of three sites in the Wakkerstroom area for torbanite and coal by Delta Mining Consolidated (Verdoorn 2008) have apparently since been scrapped. The grassland biome is the least conserved biome in South Africa (Evans et al. 1999). Importantly, its favoured habitat is intensively grazed areas as found on livestock farms. The population may have experienced a recent decline owing to annual burning of grassland in KwaZulu-Natal and Free State in 2007 (N. Smith in litt. 2007, D. Maphisa in litt. 2012). The late burning of grassland may shorten the potential breeding season and force a peak in breeding that coincides with high predator numbers (Maphisa et al. 2009). Predation is the main cause of nest loss, with mongooses, rodents and snakes identified as the main predators (Maphisa et al. 2009).

Conservation Actions Underway
It is not known to breed in any protected area. However, its preferred habitat is close-cropped grassland as found on livestock farms, particularly with sheep, which crop freshly burnt grass close to ground (Maphisa et al. 2009). The proposed Grassland Biosphere Reserve centred around Volksrust and Wakkerstroom, and particularly the Amersfoort-Bethal-Carolina District (identified as an Important Bird Area [Barnes 1998]), are believed to hold extremely important numbers of this species. Conservation Actions Proposed
Promote land management practices such as monitored livestock farming in the Moist Clay Highveld Grassland areas. Designate areas to be managed for this species. Raise awareness of and involve landowners in management practices for this species outside of protected areas (Evans et al. 1999). Survey the eastern Free State for this species. Monitor its population trends. Research its ecology and breeding requirements. Study its response to different grazing and burning regimes, and how fragmentation is affecting genetic integrity. Identify uses of grassland with fewer negative impacts than conversion for argiculture, and provide incentives for their rapid adoption. Prevent or minimise deleterious management regimes. Encourage a management regime that favours both this species and Rudd's Lark Heteromirafra ruddi; burn early in the breeding season following the rains, with subsequent heavy grazing, which should be stopped in December-March (Maphisa et al. 2009).

Barnes, K. N. 1998. The Important Bird Areas of southern Africa. BirdLife South Africa, Johannesburg.

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

Evans, S. W. 1999. Globally threatened bird species profile: Botha's lark Spizocorys fringillaris. Newsletter of BirdLife South Africa 2(3): 16.

Keith, S.; Urban, E. K.; Fry, C. H. 1992. The birds of Africa vol. IV. Academic Press, London.

Maphisa, D. H.; Donald, P. F.; Buchanan, G. M.; Ryan, P. G. 2009. Habitat use, distribution and breeding ecology of the globally threatened Rudd's Lark and Botha's Lark in eastern South Africa. Ostrich 80(1): 19-28.

Maphisa, D. H.; Donald, P. F.; Ryan, P. G.; Piper, S. E. in prep.. Habitat use and breeding ecology of the globally threatened Rudd"s Lark and Botha"s Lark in eastern South Africa.

Verdoorn, G. 2008. BLSA fights threat to Wakkerstroom. Africa - Birds & Birding 13(2): 74.

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
Benstead, P., Ekstrom, J., Pilgrim, J., Shutes, S., Symes, A., Taylor, J.

Maphisa, D., Smith, N.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Taylor, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Spizocorys fringillaris. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016.

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 - Botha's lark (Spizocorys fringillaris) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Endangered
Family Alaudidae (Larks)
Species name author (Sundevall, 1850)
Population size 1000-3300 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 42,800 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- Projected distributions under climate change