Family Larks (Alaudidae)

Least Concern

Rufous-naped Lark (Mirafra africana)


French: Alouette à nuque rousse German: Kurzhaubenlerche Spanish: Alondra nuquirrufa

Mirafra africana

A. Smith

, 1836,

Algoa Bay, Eastern Cape, South Africa


Sometimes considered conspecific with M. hypermetra, but the two are morphologically and vocally distinct, with no intermediate forms where their ranges meet in Kenya and N Tanzania. Hitherto included M. sharpii; even without it, geographical variation extreme, and future studies likely to reveal that several races might also be treated as separate species, including malbranti, which has a quite distinct aerial display and may be more closely related to M. angolensis; the small grey kabalii; and the large, long-clawed forms nyikae and nigrescens; conversely, differences among many contiguous races are broadly clinal, and further study may reveal that several taxa are untenable; full review required. Other described races, all considered insufficiently distinct, include anchietae (Huíla, in SW Angola), irwini (Cuando Cubango, in SE Angola), zuluensis (Maputa, in NE KwaZulu-Natal) and rostrata (coastal SE South Africa). Twenty-two subspecies tentatively recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • M. a. henrici Bates, 1930 – NW & SE Guinea, N Sierra Leone, N Liberia and extreme W Ivory Coast.
  • M. a. batesi Bannerman, 1923 – SE Niger, W Chad and C (possibly also NE) Nigeria.
  • M. a. ruwenzoria Kinnear, 1921 – E DRCongo and SW Uganda.
  • M. a. athi E. J. O. Hartert, 1900 – C Kenya and N Tanzania.
  • M. a. harterti Neumann, 1908 – S Kenya.
  • M. a. occidentalis (Hartlaub, 1857) – W Angola.
  • M. a. kabalii C. M. N. White, 1943 – E Angola (Lunda Sul and N Moxico) and NW Zambia (Balovale).
  • M. a. gomesi C. M. N. White, 1944 – E Angola (E Moxico) and W Zambia (Kabompo).
  • M. a. chapini C. H. B. Grant & Mackworth-Praed, 1939 – SE DRCongo and NW Zambia.
  • M. a. isolata Clancey, 1956 – SE Malawi.
  • M. a. pallida Sharpe, 1902 – S Angola (SW Cuando Cubango) and N Namibia.
  • M. a. ghansiensis (Roberts, 1932) – E Namibia and W Botswana.
  • M. a. grisescens Sharpe, 1902 – N Botswana, W Zambia and NW Zimbabwe.
  • M. a. transvaalensis E. J. O. Hartert, 1900 – S Tanzania and Mozambique S to N South Africa.
  • M. a. africana A. Smith, 1836 – Rufous-naped Lark – SE South Africa.
  • M. a. kurrae Lynes, 1923 – Sudan Lark – SW Sudan.
  • M. a. bamendae Serle, 1959 – W Cameroon, possibly also adjacent E Nigeria.
  • M. a. stresemanni Bannerman, 1923 – Bamenda Lark – C Cameroon (Adamawa Plateau).
  • M. a. malbranti Chapin, 1946 – Malbrant's Lark – E Gabon, SC Congo and adjacent SW DRCongo.
  • M. a. tropicalis E. J. O. Hartert, 1900 – Serengeti Lark – E Uganda, SW Kenya and NW Tanzania.
  • M. a. nyikae Benson, 1939 – NE Zambia, adjacent SW Tanzania and N Malawi.
  • M. a. nigrescens Reichenow, 1900 – Blackish Lark – S Tanzania (Kitulu Plateau).
  • Descriptive notes

    16–20 cm; male 40–55 g, female 33–49 g. Fairly large, robust lark with short erectile crest, rufous flight-feathers forming prominent rufous panel on folded... read more


    Male (of most races) has short (0·9–1·2 seconds), simple song, “tlee... read more


    Wide range of grassy habitats from sea-level to 3000 m, including savanna and open woodland,... read more

    Food and feeding

    Insects, including grasshoppers (Acrididae), caterpillars, beetles (Coleoptera), termites (Isoptera), mantids, dipteran larvae, also other... read more


    Season mostly Nov–Feb and Apr–Aug, but mainly Oct–Feb in S Africa (overall Aug–Mar in Zambia), and Sept–Dec... read more


    Resident. Pairs remain on territories and males sing throughout year.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Generally common; widespread in S, becoming more patchy and localized farther N. Race isolate very poorly known and... read more

    Recommended citation

    Ryan, P., Boesman, P. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Rufous-naped Lark (Mirafra africana). 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 10 December 2019).