Family Larks (Alaudidae)

Least Concern

Chestnut-backed Sparrow-lark (Eremopterix leucotis)


French: Moinelette à oreillons blancs German: Weißwangenlerche Spanish: Terrera orejiblanca

Loxia leucotis


, 1814,

coast of Eritrea


Relationships uncertain; has been considered closest to E. nigriceps on basis of male plumage patterns. Five subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • E. l. melanocephalus (M. H. C. Lichtenstein, 1823) – S Mauritania, Senegambia and SE Guinea-Bissau#R E to C & S Sudan.
  • E. l. leucotis (Stanley, 1814) – South Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea and NW Somalia.
  • E. l. madaraszi (Reichenow, 1902) – NE Uganda, Kenya, coastal S Somalia, Tanzania, C Malawi and NW Mozambique.
  • E. l. hoeschi C. M. N. White, 1959 – S Angola, N Namibia, W Zambia, N Botswana and NW Zimbabwe.
  • E. l. smithi (Bonaparte, 1850) – E Zambia, S Malawi, W & C Mozambique, E Zimbabwe, E Botswana and E South Africa.
  • Descriptive notes

    12–14 cm; 12–21 g. Small, sexually dimorphic lark with appearance like that of a finch (Fringillidae). Adult male nominate race has head mostly black, with large... read more


    Male song rather monotonous “shrimp zzt zzt zrit”, final note higher-pitched; also gives sweet,... read more


    Short, open grassland, and semi-arid savanna. Favours bare ground, burnt areas, fallow fields and... read more

    Food and feeding

    Food mostly grass seeds; grasshoppers (Acrididae) and other insects taken primarily when feeding chicks. In a study in the Limpopo province... read more


    Mostly Oct–Mar in N; during dry season, Mar–Sept, in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi; in South Africa often earlier, mostly Mar... read more


    Mostly nomadic; some populations resident, others perhaps fully migratory. In W Africa, post-... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Fairly common to common throughout much of its range, but scarce and erratic at the periphery. Risk of potential threat from habitat... read more

    Recommended citation

    Ryan, P. (2020). Chestnut-backed Sparrow-lark (Eremopterix leucotis). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 25 February 2020).