Family Larks (Alaudidae)

Least Concern

Spike-heeled Lark (Chersomanes albofasciata)


French: Alouette éperonnée German: Zirplerche Spanish: Alondra espolada

Certhilauda albofasciata


, 1836,

Deelfontein, Northern Cape, South Africa


Genetic data indicate that N populations are basal, and that, within South Africa, W (coastal) and E (grassland) populations are more closely related to each other than to Karoo populations. Very rare race beesleyi treated as full species in HBW based on suite of supposedly unique characters in fact shared with present species#R, and by genetic distance; however, despite more recent affirmation of species rank#R, molecular sampling of key taxa has not yet occurred. Geographical variation mostly in plumage coloration, with fine-scale differences linked to changes in soil colour, resulting in numerous races having been described; differences among many contiguous forms broadly clinal, and further study may demonstrate that several listed races are unsustainable. Other named races include longispina from Angola (W Huíla), synonymized with obscurata; bathoeni from SE Botswana, merged with kalahariae; bradfieldi from Great Namaqualand (Langklip), merged with arenaria; from W to E in South Africa, bushmanensis and meinertzhageni are considered synonymous with garrula, baddeleyi with nominate, robertsi and subpallida with alticola, and latimerae with macdonaldi. Isolated population in SE DRCongo not yet ascribed to any named race (although only specimen labelled as obscurata in RMCA). Eleven subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. a. beesleyi Benson, 1966 – Beesley's Lark – N Tanzania: area just N of Mt Meru.
  • C. a. obscurata (E. J. O. Hartert, 1907) – SW, C & NE Angola (C Plateau, and S Benguela S to Namibe).
  • C. a. boweni (Meyer de Schauensee, 1931) – NW Namibia.
  • C. a. erikssoni (E. J. O. Hartert, 1907) – N Namibia.
  • C. a. barlowi C. M. N. White, 1961 – NE Botswana.
  • C. a. arenaria (Reichenow, 1904) – S Namibia and SW South Africa (S to NW & C Karoo).
  • C. a. garrula (A. Smith, 1846) – W South Africa (Western Cape).
  • C. a. kalahariae (Ogilvie-Grant, 1912) – C Botswana and N South Africa.
  • C. a. albofasciata (Lafresnaye, 1836) – Spike-heeled Lark – SE Botswana and C South Africa.
  • C. a. alticola Roberts, 1932 – NE South Africa.
  • C. a. macdonaldi (Winterbottom, 1958) – S South Africa (SE Karoo).
  • Also (race unknown) in SE DRCongo (Kundelungu in Katanga)#R.

    Descriptive notes

    13–14 cm; male 23–34 g, female 20–27 g. Very distinctive lark, with upright posture, slender decurved bill, and short tail with prominent white tips; hind... read more


    Typical call a dry trill, “trrri-trrri-trrri-trrr”, like that of a plover (Charadriidae... read more


    Range of open habitats, from montane grassland to arid Karoo shrublands and to semi-desert and... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mostly insects, including termites (Isoptera), beetles (Coleoptera), ants and moths (Lepidoptera), and arachnids (solifugids); some seeds (... read more


    Mostly Jul–Dec in South Africa, although in arid areas breeding stimulated by rainfall and can occur in virtually any season;... read more


    Apparently resident.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Common throughout most of range. No data available on densities, but pairs and groups defend rather large territories throughout year... read more

    Recommended citation

    Ryan, P. (2019). Spike-heeled Lark (Chersomanes albofasciata). 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 7 December 2019).