||Heteromirafra ruddi (Grant, 1908)
||Alouette de Rudd
||del Hoyo, J., Collar, N.J., Christie, D.A., Elliott, A., Fishpool, L.D.C., Boesman, P. and Kirwan, G.M. 2016. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Volume 2: Passerines. Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge, UK.
||14 cm. Small, large-headed and short-tailed lark with large dark eyes. Buff stripe in centre of crown diagnostic when crest erect. Long, flesh-coloured legs. When threatened it has a habit of running fast on the ground before suddenly stopping. Otherwise rather tame and confiding and may easily be overlooked. In flight shows short, very thin tail and large rounded wings. Similar spp. Spike-heeled Lark Chersomanes albofasciata has white tip to its short tail.
|Red List Category & Criteria:
||Allan, D., Burns, A., Colyn, R., Lee, A., Maphisa, D., Ryan, P.G., Smith, N., Tarboton, W. & Theron, N.
||Ekstrom, J., Harding, M., Pilgrim, J., Shutes, S., Stattersfield, A., Symes, A., Taylor, J., Westrip, J.
This species is listed as Endangered because it is considered to be declining rapidly over three generations owing to increased habitat loss and degradation.
|Previously published Red List assessments:|
- 2016 – Vulnerable (VU)
- 2012 – Vulnerable (VU)
- 2008 – Vulnerable (VU)
- 2005 – Vulnerable (VU)
- 2004 – Critically Endangered (CR)
- 2000 – Critically Endangered (CR)
- 1996 – Critically Endangered (CR)
- 1994 – Critically Endangered (CR)
- 1988 – Threatened (T)
|Range Description:||Heteromirafra ruddi is an endemic resident of east South Africa. Although records are spread over a large area, its distribution within this area is patchy. The core of its restricted range has been centred on south-east Mpumalanga, north-west KwaZulu-Natal and the north-east Free State, however, up to date information is lacking for much of this range (D. Maphisa in litt. 2016). Small, isolated populations are found farther north in the Dullstroom-Machadodorp district, and possibly at Ncora Dam and Molteno in the Eastern Cape; although there have been no confirmed sightings for several years around Dullstroom and it may have become locally extinct in areas of Eastern Cape (Peacock 2015, R. Colyn verbally 2017). A population at Matatiele in west KwaZulu-Natal has possibly gone extinct (N. Theron and R. Colyn in litt. 2016). Further surveys in 2010 between the Normandien pass and Ncandu Nature Reserve had a possible alarming individual, but no sighting was confirmed (D. Maphisa in litt. 2016). The overall population was not thought to have decreased significantly since the mid-1990s (P. Ryan in litt. 2005), however its absence has been noted at former strongholds, suggesting it is now in decline (D. Maphisa in litt. 2007), and comparison of data in South African Bird Atlas Project 1 and 2 indicates a reduction in area of occupancy of over 50% (D. Maphisa in litt. 2012). Historical records from Warden in the Free State and sight records from the Memel-Vrede-Warden-Harrismith arc suggest that there may be a substantial, previously overlooked, population in the eastern Free State, and the remaining natural grassland in the area looks suitable, although agriculture is intense (D. Maphisa in litt. 2016). The global population has been estimated at 1,500-5,000 individuals (Siegfried 1992). A lower limit of 2,500 individuals has been suggested as more realistic (Barnes and Tarboton 1998), but it has been suggested that the lack of new sites and disappearance from former strongholds mean the total population may be much lower (D. Maphisa in litt. 2012, 2016).|
|♦ Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):||Yes|
|♦ Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):||No||♦ Estimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:||60100|
|♦ Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):||Yes||♦ Extreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):||No|
|♦ Number of Locations:||11-100||♦ Continuing decline in number of locations:||Yes|
|♦ Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:||No||♦ Lower elevation limit (metres):||1600|
|♦ Upper elevation limit (metres):||2200|
|Range Map:||Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.|
|Population:||Siegfried (1992) suggested a global population of 1,500-5,000 individuals. Estimates for the proposed Grassland Biosphere Reserve suggest that 2,500 individuals is a more realistic lower limit for this species. This range is roughly equivalent to 1,700-3,300 mature individuals, however, the total may be significantly lower (D. Maphisa in litt. 2012, 2016).|
Trend Justification: Because much of the population may be on private land, and it is an elusive species, makes it difficult to get accurate population measures (D. Maphisa in litt. 2016). Analyses of Southern African Bird Atlas Project data have shown a possible 40% decline in range (with a 14% decline in core range) (Lee et al. 2017), and Peacock (2015) estimate the decline at >50%. However, its absence has recently been noted at former strongholds, particularly at Mataliele (where it is now presumed extinct) (D. Maphisa in litt. 2007, N. Theron and R. Colyn in litt. 2016). Suspected declines in the Wakkestroom population have also been raised (N. Theron and R. Colyn in litt. 2016), with repeat surveys in 2016 of 33 transects originally covered in 2002 (Maphisa 2004) showing declines in both the number of transects (down from 9 to 5) where the species was found, and the number of individuals recorded (down from 32 to 9) (Gush 2017). This suggests it is presently in severe decline, with the decline over three generations (c.11.5 years) tentatively placed in the range of 50-79%.
|Current Population Trend:||Decreasing|
|♦ Number of mature individuals:||1700-3300||♦ Continuing decline of mature individuals:||Yes|
|♦ Extreme fluctuations:||No||♦ Population severely fragmented:||Yes|
|♦ No. of subpopulations:||2-10||♦ Continuing decline in subpopulations:||Unknown|
|♦ Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:||No||♦ All individuals in one subpopulation:||No|
|Habitat and Ecology:||It is found within open, grazed, level grassland mostly with minimal forb invasion, in high rainfall (>600 mm p.a.), sour grassland regions. It favours stone-free areas of natural grassland on flat or gently-sloping hilltop plateaux, with short (4-9 cm) to medium (6-8 cm) grass cover, avoiding areas with tall, dense or insufficient grass cover (Maphisa 2004). Relatively high abundances are found at severely grazed sites, although few birds breed in such habitat, where breeding success is low (D. Maphisa in litt. 2007). The Molteno site is never burned, and suitable habitat is maintained by stocking cattle in the winter and removing cattle after the first rains, while indigenous grazers such as Black Wildebeest and Blesbok are present at the site throughout the year but at low densities (N. Theron and R. Colyn in litt. 2016). By not burning, dry grass is available at the start of the breeding season, and may allow pairs to breed earlier than at other sites within the species range (N. Theron and R. Colyn in litt. 2016). This species also favours edges of pans and vleis. Recent research indicates that the species would best be conserved under controlled mixed stocking rates of sheep and cattle with burning carried out every second year (Maphisa 2004). The species requires habitat heterogeneity for nest concealment and foraging during the breeding season. The most suitable breeding habitat appears to be moderately to lightly grazed unburned or burned sites. The nest is a cup covered with a dome, constructed from old grass and lined with fresh dry grass. Egg laying occurs from October to April, with peaks in January and February (Maphisa et al. 2009). The clutch size is two to four, but most commonly three, eggs (Maphisa et al. 2009). The incubation period is 13-14 days and the fledging period is c.13 days (Maphisa et al. 2009). Nestlings are fed on young locusts, other insects, worms and arachnids (Maphisa 2004).|
|Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:||Yes|
|Generation Length (years):||3.8|
|Movement patterns:||Not a Migrant|