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Species Guide
A photo of a Red-capped Lark (Calandrella cinerea)
Red-capped Lark

Red-capped Lark

Calandrella cinerea

The red-capped lark, Calandrella cinerea, is a diminutive passerine, measuring a mere 14–15 cm in length. It is characterized by a rufous cap and red shoulders, a feature that sets it apart from its kin. The upperparts are streaked grey to brown, varying in hue and brightness across its subspecies. The underparts are a crisp white. Both sexes share a similar plumage, while juveniles are distinguished by the absence of the red cap and shoulders, exhibiting dark spotting on the breast and white spots on the dark brown upperparts.

Identification Tips

When observing the red-capped lark, look for its distinctive rufous cap and red shoulders, which are particularly prominent. The bird's upright stance and short head crest, which may be raised during courtship displays, are also key identification features. The variable coloration of the upperparts can be used to differentiate between subspecies.


The red-capped lark favors short grassland habitats, including fallow agricultural lands. It thrives in the highlands of eastern Africa, typically above 1000 meters, but can also be found at sea level in the cooler southern reaches of its range.


This species breeds in the highlands of eastern Africa, from Ethiopia and Somaliland, stretching across to Angola and down to the Cape in South Africa. Its distribution is extensive, with a presence in a variety of suitable habitats across this vast area.


The red-capped lark is known for its foraging behavior, often seen moving with short runs on bare ground or in very short grass as it searches for seeds and insects. It can sometimes be observed in flocks, which may number in the hundreds.

Song & Calls

The call of the red-capped lark is reminiscent of a sparrow's tshwerp, while its song is a melodic jumble of whistles and short trills. This bird is also known to mimic the calls of other bird species.


Breeding occurs throughout the year, peaking from September to December. The female constructs the nest, an open cup set into the ground, lined with fine grass and rootlets. Clutches typically consist of 2–3 eggs, incubated by the female, who is provisioned by the male. After 12–15 days of incubation, the eggs hatch synchronously. Both parents are involved in feeding and caring for the chicks, which fledge between 9 and 18 days.

Diet and Feeding

The red-capped lark's diet consists of seeds and insects, which it forages for on the ground or in very short grass. Its feeding habits may lead it to form large flocks, particularly outside the breeding season.

Conservation status

The red-capped lark is currently listed as Least Concern by the IUCN, indicating that it does not face any immediate threat of extinction.

Red-capped Lark Sounds

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Red-capped Larks on Birda


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