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Eremopterix australis (Black-eared sparrowlark, Blackeared finchlark)

Swartoorlewerik [Afrikaans]; kafferleeuwerik [Dutch]; Moinelette oreillons noirs [French]; Schwarzwangenlerche [German]; Cotovia-pardal-preta [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Passeriformes > Family: Alaudidae > Genus: Eremopterix

Eremopterix australis (Black-eared sparrowlark, Blackeared finchlark)  

Black-eared sparrowlark female sitting on nest. [photo Peter Steyn ]


Distribution and habitat

Endemic to South Africa, with the bulk of its population in the Northern Cape Karoo, extending north-east to Namibia. It generally prefers sparse dwarf shrubland (especially Karoo scrub) and grassland, especially on red sand or stony soils.

Distribution of Black-eared sparrowlark in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project ( Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  


It mainly eats seeds supplemented with invertebrates, doing most of its foraging in flocks on the ground, plucking food items from soil and the bases of plants. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Seeds
    • grasses
      • Stipagrostis
      • Schmidtia
      • Aristida
      • Enneapogon
    • forbs
      • Giseckia
      • Chenopodium
      • Hypertelis
      • Hermannia
      • Psilocaulon
  • Fruit of honey-thorns (Lycium)
  • Arthropods
    • Hodotermes mossambicus (Northern harvester termites)
    • ants
    • leaf-hoppers (Hemiptera)
    • Coleoptera (beetles)


  • The nest (see image above) is built solely by the female in about 4-5 days, consisting of cup built of fine grass, feathery awns and rootlets. It is typically placed on a foundation of twigs, in an excavated hollow against a shrub or grass tuft, with the rim decorated with the webs of buckspoor spiders (Seothyra).
  • It can lay its eggs at any time of year, usually in the weeks after a period of heavy rainfall.
  • It lays 1-4 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for about 8-11 days.
  • The young chicks are brooded by both parents in the heat of the day, and are fed exclusively on invertebrates. When they reach about 7-10 days of age (later if it had been raining), the adults coax the young away from the nest with feeding calls, before they can even fly. After a few days they are capable of running and hiding from predators, only learning to fly when they are 15-20 days old.


Not threatened.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.