Heteromirafra ruddi (Rudd's lark) 

[= Mirafra ruddi

Drakensberglewerik [Afrikaans]; Sporenleeuwerik [Dutch]; Alouette de Rudd [French]; Spornlerche [German]; Cotovia de Rudd [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Passeriformes > Family: Alaudidae

 

Rudd's lark, Wakkerstroom district, Mpumalanga, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ]

 

Distribution and habitat

Endemic to South Africa, only occurring in localised populations in Mpumalanga (especially Wakkerstroom), KwaZulu-Natal and the extreme east of the Eastern Cape. It is extremely habitat specific, preferring Highveld sourveld and North-eastern sandy highveld, on flat areas with dense, short grass. It is absent from old croplands, grassland on slopes and patches where the grass is more then 70cm tall.

Distribution of Rudd's lark in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project ( 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.  

Food 

It mainly eats insects supplemented with seeds, doing most of its foraging alone, gleaning food from the bases of and leaves of grass tufts. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

Breeding

  • The nest (see image below) is a domed structure with a side entrance, which is either a simple hole or a short, spout-like tunnel. It is typically built with dry grass, placed in a scrape in the ground at the base of a grass tuft, the leaves of which are often integrated into the nest.
Heteromirafra ruddi (Rudd's lark)   

Rudd's lark nest with eggs, Wakkerstroom area, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ]

 
  • Egg-laying season is from October-February, peaking from November-February.
  • It lays 2-4 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for about 13-15 days.
  • Initially the chicks are mainly brooded by the female, while the male forages for himself, her and the young. Later, they both equally contribute food to the chicks, who eventually leave the nest at about 11-15 days old, before they can fly.

Threats

Critically endangered, due its extremely fragmented distribution and small population, which is estimated to be less than 5000 individuals and decreasing. Its situation is mainly due to the fact that its favoured habitat (grassland) is one of the least protected biomes in South Africa, as it is seriously degraded and destroyed for afforestation and agriculture. It is most common in the Wakkerstroom region in Mpumalanga, so it has been proposed that it would wise to set up a Grassland Biosphere Reserve centered on this area.

References

  • 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. 

 

 

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