Family Larks (Alaudidae)

Least Concern

Desert Lark (Ammomanes deserti)


French: Ammomane isabelline German: Steinlerche Spanish: Terrera sahariana

Alauda deserti

M. H. C. Lichtenstein

, 1823,

Aswan, upper Egypt


Geographical variation complex, with recent multilocus genetic study recovering four deeply divergent lineages#R, whereas numerous races named mainly based on plumage coloration, which is strongly related to predominant soil colours; pale and dark birds live side by side in some areas, e.g. Algeria (Hoggar Mts), Nile Valley and Jordan. Although more than 30 races have been described, many now usually merged, often rather arbitrarily, for example: bensoni (grey-coloured) and janeti (brown) from Hoggar Mts have been included variously in geyri or whitakeri; intermedia (El Golea area of Algeria) in mya or algeriensis; mirei (Tibesti Mts, in Chad) in nominate, whitakeri or algeriensis; monodi (Iriji, in Mauritania) in payni or geyri; katharinae (Sinai Peninsula) in nominate or isabellina; hijazensis (Arabian W coast) in samharensis or isabellina. In addition, fratercula (Dead Sea region) and borosi (lower Nile Valley in EC Egypt) considered inseparable from isabellina. Races iranica and phoenicuroides said to intergrade widely in Afghanistan and Pakistan (in region from Kandahar E to Quetta). Thorough review of taxonomy required. Race kollmannspergeri previously listed as kollmanspergeri in HBW and elsewhere#R#R; both versions appear in the original description, but current spelling selected by First Revisers#R, and in any case is justified by spelling of "Dr. Kollmannsperger" in original text. Twenty-four subspecies tentatively recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • A. d. payni E. J. O. Hartert, 1924 – Morocco (S of High Atlas Mts) and nearby SW Algeria.
  • A. d. algeriensis Sharpe, 1890 – N Algeria (N of 31° N), Tunisia and NW Libya to NW Chad (Tibesti Mts).
  • A. d. mya E. J. O. Hartert, 1912 – C Algeria (Sahara between 30° N and 27° N).
  • A. d. geyri E. J. O. Hartert, 1924 – Mauritania E to S Algeria and W Niger.
  • A. d. whitakeri E. J. O. Hartert, 1911 – SE Algeria (including Hoggar Mts) and SW Libya.
  • A. d. kollmannspergeri#R Niethammer, 1955 – NE Chad (Ennedi Mts) and W Sudan (Darfur).
  • A. d. isabellina (Temminck, 1823) – N Egypt (from W of Nile Valley and Dakhla Oasis) E to S & E Israel, W & S Jordan, NW Saudi Arabia and S Iraq (E to R Tigris).
  • A. d. deserti (M. H. C. Lichtenstein, 1823) – SE Egypt (E of R Nile to Red Sea) S to N Sudan.
  • A. d. erythrochroa Reichenow, 1904 – W Chad (N’Djamena) E to N Sudan (Dongola S to Kordofan).
  • A. d. samharensis Shelley, 1902 – Red Sea coasts of Sudan, Eritrea (S to Mits’iwa) and Arabian Peninsula (S to Yemen border).
  • A. d. assabensis Salvadori, 1902 – SE Eritrea, Djibouti, NE Ethiopia and NW Somalia.
  • A. d. akeleyi Elliot, 1897 – highlands of N Somalia.
  • A. d. coxi R. Meinertzhagen, 1923 – S Turkey (Birecik), Syria and N Iraq (E to Samarra and Al Fallujah).
  • A. d. annae R. Meinertzhagen, 1923 – black lava deserts of Jordan (Azraq area), probably also extreme S Syria.
  • A. d. azizi Ticehurst & Cheesman, 1924 – NE Saudi Arabia (Al Hufuf area).
  • A. d. saturata Ogilvie-Grant, 1900 – black lava deserts of S Arabia (N Hijaz S to Aden).
  • A. d. insularis Ripley, 1951 – Bahrain, in Persian Gulf.
  • A. d. taimuri Meyer de Schauensee & Ripley, 1953 – E United Arab Emirates and N Oman (Muscat area).
  • A. d. cheesmani R. Meinertzhagen, 1923 – E Iraq (E of R Tigris) to W Iran (S, W of Zagros Mts, to Persian Gulf near Bandar e Bushehr).
  • A. d. darica Koelz, 1951 – SW Iran (S Zagros Mts).
  • A. d. parvirostris E. J. O. Hartert, 1890 – W Turkmenistan (Kara-Bogaz-Gol S to Kopet Dag and Atrak Basin).
  • A. d. orientalis Zarudny & Loudon, 1904 – NE Iran (N Khorasan), Turkestan (SE Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, S Tajikistan) and N Afghanistan.
  • A. d. iranica Zarudny, 1911 – C, S & E Iran (E of Tehran) E to SW Afghanistan and W Pakistan (Baluchistan).
  • A. d. phoenicuroides (Blyth, 1853) – SE Afghanistan, E Pakistan and adjacent NW India (extreme W Rajasthan).
  • Descriptive notes

    15–17 cm; c. 20–30 g. Medium-sized, robust lark with relatively large head, rather heavy bill (size changes geographically), longish wings with long primary... read more


    Male song, usually in flight, also from ground, far-carrying, melodious trilled whistles, “... read more


    Throughout range occurs in desert or semi-desert, mainly in lowlands. Found on rocky or stony hill... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mixed diet; small seeds and insects taken in highly variable proportions, according to areas and seasons. In Western Sahara during spring... read more


    Lays Mar–May in N of range, Feb–Apr in S; Apr–Jun in Somalia; 1–2 broods per year. Monogamous; territorial. Male... read more


    Resident. Mainly sedentary, although some irregular movements recorded; altitudinal movements in... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Widespread and common to locally common in many parts of extensive range. Common in much of African range, but apparently rather uncommon in... read more

    Recommended citation

    de Juana, E. & Suárez, F. (2020). Desert Lark (Ammomanes deserti). 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 19 February 2020).