Spizocorys sclateri (Sclater's lark) 

Namakwalewerik [Afrikaans]; Namagua-leeuwerik [Dutch]; Alouette de Sclater [French]; Sclaters kurzhaubenlerche [German]; Cotovia de Scatler [Portuguese]

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Spizocorys sclateri (Sclater's lark)   

Sclater's lark, Beaufort West, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

 

Distribution and habitat

Endemic to southern Africa, occurring from southern Namibia to the Northern Cape, marginally extending into the Western Cape. It generally prefers stony (especially with quartz gravel) arid or semi-arid open plains with sparsely scattered shrubs and grass tufts.

Distribution of Sclater'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 seeds supplemented with insects, doing its foraging on the ground, plucking seeds from dead grass tufts and exposing food items beneath pebbles. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Insects
  • Seeds
    • grass
      • Enneapogon desvauxii (Kalkgras)
      • Brachiara (signal grasses)
      • Schmidtia kalahariensis (Kalarisandkweek)
    • shrubs
      • Fabiaceae
    • forbs
      • Polygonum

Breeding

  • The nest (see images below) is a neat cup built of dry grass leaves and stems, thickly lined with shredded grass. It is typically placed in an excavated hollow at ground level, surrounded by a rim of shale gravel or quartz pebbles and usually with few if any shrubs or grass tufts in the vicinity. Nesting in the open leaves it vulnerable to both predation and the midday sun, however the thick lining may insulate the eggs from high surface temperatures and it is also difficult to spot the nest from afar.
Spizocorys sclateri (Sclater's lark)

Sclater's lark with chick in nest. [photo Peter Steyn ©]

Spizocorys sclateri (Sclater's lark)  

Sclater's lark at its nest, Maltahöhe, Namibia. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

 
  • Egg-laying season is from April-November, peaking from August-November.
  • It lays a single egg, which is incubated by both sexes for about 13 days. During particularly hot days, incubation shifts are only 11-65 minutes each, so that each adult can leave to cool off.
  • The chicks are brooded constantly by both parents in the midday to keep them cool, leaving the nest after about 10-14 days, before they can fly (soon taking shelter from the heat beneath a shrub). It is possible that the cause of it consistently laying only one egg may be because it is necessary for both adults to brood the chicks in the heat of the day, making it difficult for them to feed more than one chick. However, there are other species of lark that manage to raise 2 nestlings in much more extreme conditions (such as the Black-crowned sparrowlark in Saudi Arabia).

Threats

Near-threatened because of its localised distribution and low breeding success, also it is not particularly common in protected areas. In one study, its overall breeding success was found to be only 20%, based on data from 46 nests. Most of the eggs and chicks lost were eaten by predators, although nestlings were occasionally drowned by thunderstorms.

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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