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Spizocorys fringillaris 

Scope: Global
Language: English
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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Passeriformes Alaudidae

Scientific Name: Spizocorys fringillaris
Species Authority: (Sundevall, 1850)
Common Name(s):
English Botha's Lark
French Alouette de Botha
Taxonomic Source(s): 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.
Identification information: 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.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered C2a(i) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2016-10-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Maphisa, D., Smith, N., Little, I. & Donald, P.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Benstead, P., Ekstrom, J., Pilgrim, J., Shutes, S., Symes, A., Taylor, J., Westrip, J.
Justification:
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.

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: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, 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), and anlysis of Southern African Bird Atlas Project data show a possible range decrease of up to 65% (Lee et al. in press). An increase in reporting rates from the Southern African Bird Atlas Project2 on a previously overlooked suitable habitat near Van Reenen along N3 road indicate the challenge of missing this cryptic species.  The area near Van Reenen bounded by N3 (Van Reenen – Harrismith road) and Van Reenen – Collins Pass gravel road and Wildge River in the north has seen little grassland transformation other than for heavy grazing, and all this area looks suitable for this species (D. Maphisa in litt. 2016). This recent discovery was a result of impact assessment associated with N3 road upgrade, indicating a number of overlooked subpopulations existed within the core species range (D. Maphisa in litt. 2016).

Countries occurrence:
Native:
South Africa
Additional data:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Yes
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:60900
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):YesExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Number of Locations:11-100Continuing decline in number of locations:Yes
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:NoLower elevation limit (metres):1500
Upper elevation limit (metres):1900
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:It is cryptic and core populations may be found on privately owned farms creating uncertainty over current numbers. However, the global population has been estimated at <2,500 mature individuals (Peacock 2015).

Trend Justification:  Habitat loss suggests that a very rapid population decline is taking place. While there have been some increases in reporting rates in certain areas as part of the Southern African Bird Atlas Project there is substantial evidence for local decreases and possibly local extinction events in other areas.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:1000-2499Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:Yes
No. of subpopulations:2-100Continuing decline in subpopulations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No
No. of individuals in largest subpopulation:1-89

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: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). The recent increase in reporting rates as part of the Southern African Bird Atlas Project2 around Daggaskraal might indicate that birds are benefiting from heavy grazing around human settlement (D. Maphisa in litt. 2016).

Systems:Terrestrial
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes
Generation Length (years):3.8
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): 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). Mining is a significant threat, especially for coal and natural gas, both of which have extensive applications throughout the species's range (I. Little in litt. 2016). 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 current increase in Southern African Bird Atlas Project2 reporting rates might indicate the usually overgrazed habitat around human settlements provide ideal habitat for birds, but this is not necessarily suitable because birds may experience increased predation from cats etc. (D. Maphisa in litt. 2016).  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). Climate change may also have a very negative impact on the species (Huntley and Barnard 2012), both from its effect on the species's habitat, and indirectly through its effects on human populations (Segan et al. 2015).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: 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). There are a number of protected area expansion strategies in place including a proposed Grassland Biosphere Reserve centred around Volksrust and Wakkerstroom, and particularly the Amersfoort-Bethal-Carolina District, however no progress has been made in this regard in the last five years (I. Little in litt. 2016). The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) has initiated (in 2015) a new project which is actively working towards securing critical habitat for this species under formal private protected areas using a Biodiversity Stewardship approach. The first of these is a >15,000 hectare reserve near Wakkerstroom which is near proclamation and will be followed by at least two other similar reserves specially protected for the conservation of this and associated threatened specialist grassland species (I. Little in litt. 2016). Education and awareness work throughout the species range about habitat management for threatened species is also under way (I. Little in litt. 2016). The EWT is also implementing dedicated survey work along with habitat modelling to generate a better understanding of the EOO, AOO and population trends, as well as being in the process of developing a Conservation Action Plan for this species (I. Little in litt. 2016).

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). Habitat management for this species would include intensive grazing (from various species, e.g. cattle and sheep) and annual burning. Due to such differing selective grazing, a mosaic of microhabitats can be created which benefit the feeding and breeding of this species (D. maphisa in litt. 2016).


Citation: BirdLife International. 2016. Spizocorys fringillaris. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22717368A94529161. . Downloaded on 10 December 2016.
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