Spizocorys fringillaris 


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
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 A2c+3c+4c ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2012-05-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Taylor, J. & Butchart, S.
Contributor(s): Maphisa, D. & Smith, N.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Benstead, P., Ekstrom, J., Pilgrim, J., Shutes, S., Symes, A., Taylor, J.
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:
2008 Endangered (EN)
2006 Endangered (EN)
2004 Endangered (EN)
2000 Endangered (EN)
1996 Vulnerable (VU)
1994 Vulnerable (VU)
1988 Threatened (T)

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 (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).

Countries occurrence:
South Africa
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO): Yes
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO): No
Estimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2: 42800
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO): Unknown
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): 1500
Upper elevation limit (metres): 1900
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: 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.
Current Population Trend: Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals: 1000-3300 Continuing decline of mature individuals: Yes
Extreme fluctuations: No Population severely fragmented: Yes
No. of subpopulations: 2-100 Continuing decline in subpopulations: Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations: No All 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).

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). 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 [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). 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).

Citation: BirdLife International. 2012. Spizocorys fringillaris. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012: e.T22717368A38707047. . Downloaded on 01 December 2015.
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