Family Larks (Alaudidae)

Least Concern

Red-capped Lark (Calandrella cinerea)


French: Alouette cendrille German: Rotkappenlerche Spanish: Terrera capirotada

Alauda cinerea

J. F. Gmelin

, 1789,

no locality = Cape Town, South Africa


Often considered conspecific with C. brachydactyla (with dukhunensis), and especially C. blanfordi and C. eremica. Geographical variation among many contiguous races limited and broadly clinal, and further study may show that several taxa are not sustainable; however, birds in Nigeria (currently saturatior) and race williamsi are genetically distinctive and warrant further study#R. Other named races are ongumaensis (N Namibia), included in spleniata, witputzi (S Namibia), in nominate, and vagilans (E Botswana and NE South Africa), in nivenae; description of anderssoni (C Namibia) apparently based on worn non-breeding specimen of nominate. Eight subspecies tentatively recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. c. saturatior Reichenow, 1904 – Nigeria (Jos Plateau), and DRCongo E to Uganda and W & SW Tanzania, S to Angola (except NW & S), N Zambia and Malawi.
  • C. c. williamsi Clancey, 1952 – S Kenya and N Tanzania.
  • C. c. spleniata (Strickland, 1853) – SW Angola and NW Namibia.
  • C. c. fulvida Clancey, 1978 – S Angola, S Zambia and Zimbabwe.
  • C. c. alluvia Clancey, 1971 – coastal S Mozambique; disperses inland to N Botswana.
  • C. c. millardi Paterson, 1958 – S Botswana.
  • C. c. cinerea (J. F. Gmelin, 1789) – S Namibia and W South Africa.
  • C. c. nivenae (Macdonald, 1952) – E South Africa.
  • Descriptive notes

    14–15 cm; 20–26 g. Medium-sized lark with short, rather weak bill, adult with distinctive brick-red crown and breast-side patch, crown feathers sometimes raised... read more


    Male song, in flight, a series of simple, rather unmelodic whistles and short trills, may include... read more


    Open grassland and bare ground, including recently harvested or ploughed fields, and edges of... read more

    Food and feeding

    Seeds, insects and snails. Stomach contents mostly seeds of grasses and sedges; relatively few insects, e.g. caterpillars, bugs (Hemiptera... read more


    Associated with rains or just before onset of rains (possibly to avoid nest flooding in poorly drained soils) in most areas, although after... read more


    Poorly understood. Some populations resident; others move extensively, usually in response to local... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common to locally abundant in S, becoming more local and uncommon in N; common but patchily distributed in E Africa; uncommon and very local in... read more

    Recommended citation

    Ryan, P. (2020). Red-capped Lark (Calandrella cinerea). 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 18 January 2020).