(Grey-backed sparrowlark, Greybacked finchlark)
Grysruglewerik [Afrikaans]; Ruruworo, Tjowe (generic terms
for sparrowlark and Pink-billed lark) [Kwangali]; Grijsrug-vinkleeuwerik
[Dutch]; Moinelette à dos gris [French]; Nonnenlerche [German];
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Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves
Order: Passeriformes > Family: Alaudidae
> Genus: Eremopterix
Distribution and habitat
Near-endemic to southern Africa, occurring from
south-western Angola and Zambia to Namibia, Botswana and South Africa,
marginally extending into Zimbabwe. It generally prefers semi-arid to arid open
habitats, such as sand or gravel plains punctuated by grass clumps and shrubs,
also recently burnt grassland, harvested cropland and fallow fields.
Distribution of Grey-backed sparrowlark in southern Africa,
based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas
Animal Demography unit, University of
Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range
from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common).
See here for the latest distribution
from the SABAP2.
Predators and parasites
It has been recorded as prey of the
Movements and migrations
It is extremely nomadic, moving in groups of up
to several thousand to areas with better rainfall and grass growth/
It mainly eats seeds, doing most of its foraging in small
groups, pecking food items from the ground. The following food items have been recorded
in its diet:
- Atriplex lindleyi (Australian saltbrush, obtained by breaking open
- Brachiara glomerata
- Monsonia umbellata
- Hypertelis salsoides
- Hodotermes mossambicus (Northern harvester termite workers and
- locusts (Orthoptera)
- The nest (see image below) is built solely by the female in about 4-5
days, consisting of a cup built of small dry stems, leaves, feathery awns of
grasses and occasionally with fluffy Karoo rosemary seeds (Eriocephalus)
or wool. It is typically placed in an excavated hollow on a foundation of
stones, usually at the base of a shrub with the entrance facing south or
east, to maximise shade in the heat of the day.
Grey-backed sparrowlark female (left), and
male (right), at nest with chick.
- It is an opportunistic breeder, meaning that egg-laying season is
year-round. Laying dates usually coincide with rainfall and the onset of
grass growth - especially when bushman grass (Stipagrostis) develops
its feather awns.
- It lays 1-5 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for about 9-11 days.
- The chicks are cared for by both parents, who mainly feed them
invertebrates such as grasshoppers and caterpillars. They eventually leave
the nestafter about 7-10 days (later if there has been rainfall), but only
taking their first flight at about 15-20 days old.
Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts
- Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker
Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.