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Eremopterix leucotis (Chestnut-backed sparrowlark, Chestnutbacked finchlark)

Rooiruglewerik [Afrikaans]; Ruruworo, Tjowe (generic terms for sparrowlark and Pink-billed lark) [Kwangali]; ’Maliberoane, ’Mamphemphe [South Sotho]; Bruinrug-vinkleeuwerik [Dutch]; Moinelette à oreillons blancs [French]; Weißwangenlerche [German]; Cotovia-pardal-de-dorso-castanho [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 leucotis (Chestnut-backed sparrowlark, Chestnutbacked finchlark) Eremopterix leucotis (Chestnut-backed sparrowlark, Chestnutbacked finchlark)
Chestnut-backed sparrowlark male. [photo Neil Gray ©] Chestnut-backed sparrowlark female. [photo Neil Gray ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs in a band from Senegal to Ethiopia, with a separate population from Malawi to southern Zambia, Angola and southern Africa. Here it is locally common in short grassland and semi-arid savanna woodland, especially in recently burnt areas; it may also occupy croplands, road verges, fallow fields and airstrips.

Distribution of Chestnut-backed 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 taken from cultivated cereal crops or grasses, supplemented with invertebrates (especially during the breeding season). It lives and forages in groups of 5-50 birds in the non-breeding season, occasionally up to several hundred.


  • Both sexes build the nest, which is a cup of dry grass and rootlets placed in a shallow excavated depression in the ground. It is often positioned against a grass tuft or stone in recently fallowed agricultural land, with clods of dirt or stones surrounding the entrance.
  • Egg-laying season is year-round, varying from region to region. Generally in arid areas (such as Botswana) it begins during rains in January-March, where as in more moist regions (such as Zimbabwe and eastern South Africa) it begins after rainfall from February-September (peaking from March-July).
  • It lays 1-3 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for about 11 days, with the female taking the night shift and the male helping her in the day.
  • The chicks are brooded and fed by both parents, leaving the nest at about 10-12 days old, before they are able to fly.


Not threatened, in fact it has adapted well to the introduction of agriculture.


  • 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.