Spizocorys fringillaris


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

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

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.

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).

South Africa
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Population [top]

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

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

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. Version 2014.3. <>. Downloaded on 02 April 2015.
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