Family Larks (Alaudidae)

Least Concern

Grey-backed Sparrow-lark (Eremopterix verticalis)


French: Moinelette à dos gris German: Graurückenlerche Spanish: Terrera dorsigrís

Megalotis verticalis

A. Smith

, 1836,

Colesberg, Orange River, Northern Cape, South Africa


See E. leucopareia. Precise breeding ranges of races inadequately understood; birds breeding in SW Zambia considered to be harti, but all four races recorded in that country, the other three apparently only as irruptive visitors#R. Four subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • E. v. damarensis Roberts, 1931 – coastal Angola (including Cabinda), Namibia, W Botswana and NW South Africa; periodic irruptions E to W Zambia and W Zimbabwe.
  • E. v. harti Benson & Irwin, 1965 – W Zambia.
  • E. v. khama Irwin, 1957 – NE Botswana and W Zimbabwe; periodic irruptions NE to W Zambia.
  • E. v. verticalis (A. Smith, 1836) – SW Zimbabwe, SE Botswana and South Africa (except NW); periodic irruptions N to W Zambia.
  • Descriptive notes

    12–13 cm; 13–21 g. Small, sexually dimorphic lark with appearance like that of a finch (Fringillidae). Adult male nominate race has black head, large white ear... read more


    Male song, typically in aerial display, a series of simple notes, “shreep shreep shrup-up... read more


    Grassy plains in semi-arid regions; also sparse shrublands, fallow fields and cereal croplands in... read more

    Food and feeding

    Food mostly seeds; also small amounts of green vegetation (grass shoots, sprouting grass seeds) and insects, including termites (Isoptera... read more


    Associated with rains; laying 2–4 weeks after sufficient rainfall, but interval between rain and onset of breeding varies seasonally... read more


    Nomadic within core range, with regular dry-season movement to more mesic areas on periphery of... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common in much of range; locally superabundant after good rains. Breeding densities reach 2–6 pairs/ha in the Namib and 10–15 pairs/ha in... read more

    Recommended citation

    Ryan, P. (2020). Grey-backed Sparrow-lark (Eremopterix verticalis). 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 26 February 2020).