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the web of life in southern Africa

Galerida magnirostris (Large-billed lark, Thickbilled lark)

Dikbeklewerik [Afrikaans]; Grootsnavelleeuwerik [Dutch]; Cochevis gros bec [French]; Dickschnabellerche [German]; Cotovia-de-bico-grosso [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

Galerida magnirostris (Large-billed lark, Thickbilled lark) Galerida magnirostris (Large-billed lark, Thickbilled lark)
Thick-billed lark, Heerenlogenment, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ] Thick-billed lark, West Coast National Park, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ]
Galerida magnirostris (Large-billed lark, Thickbilled lark) Galerida magnirostris (Large-billed lark, Thickbilled lark)

Large-billed lark, Wheatfields near Durbanville, Western Cape, South Africa. [photo Duncan Robertson ]

Large-billed lark. [photo Neil Gray ]

Distribution and habitat

Near-endemic to southern Africa, occurring from the extreme south of Namibia to the Northern, Western and Eastern Cape, as well as Lesotho, the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal. In the Western Cape it is most common in succulent Karoo and cultivated land, also occupying coastal fynbos, high altitude grassland and shrub-lined rivers and streams.

Distribution of Large-billed lark 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 insects and seeds supplemented with fruit, doing most of its foraging on the ground, pecking food items from soil and the bases of plants and occasionally digging for bulbs and seeds with its large bill. The following food items have been recorded in its diet

  • Insects
  • Seeds
    • sedges
    • grasses
      • Sorghum
      • Stipagrostis
    • cereals
      • oat
      • wheat
      • rye
    • legumes
      • Medicago
      • Indigofera
    • forbs and succulents
      • Arctotis
      • Polygonum
      • Hermannia
      • Tetragonia echinata
      • Malephora lutea
      • Aridaria
      • Aizoon


  • The nest (see image below) is an open cup built of twigs, coarse grass and rootlets, often lined with finer material such as wool, feathers and plant down. It is typically placed on a foundation of twigs in an excavated burrow, usually at the base of a shrub, grass tuft or stone, occasionally out in the open.
Galerida magnirostris (Large-billed lark, Thickbilled lark)  

Large-billed lark nest with chicks, Springfontein, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ]

  • Egg-laying season is from July-December, usually peaking earlier in the winter rainfall area.
  • It lays 2-4 eggs, which are incubated for roughly 16 days.
  • The chicks are brooded for the first 5 days of their lives by both parents, both of whom also take care of the feeding. They are are particularly fearless when defending the nest from intruders, either performing a distraction display or even flying straight into the face of a person!


Not threatened, in fact it has benefited greatly from the introduction of agriculture in the Western Cape.


  • 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.