The red-capped lark, Calandrella cinerea is a 14- to 15-cm-long bird, with a typically upright stance. The colour of the streaked grey to brown upperparts is variable, with subspecies differing in hue and brightness, but this species is easily identified by its rufous cap, white underparts, and red shoulders. The short head crest is normally not noticeable except when it is raised during courtship displays. The male has redder plumage and a longer crest than the female. Juveniles lack the red cap and shoulders of the adults, have dark spotting on the breast, and white spots on the dark brown upperparts.

Habitat and Distribution

This lark breeds in the highlands of eastern Africa southwards from Ethiopia and northern Somalia. In the south, its range stretches across the continent to Angola and south to the Cape in South Africa. This is a species of short grassland including fallow agricultural areas. In eastern Africa, it is found in the highlands, normally above 1000 m, but it occurs down to sea level in suitable habitat in the cooler south of its extensive range.


The red-capped lark is a species which feeds on seeds and insects in very short grass or on patches of bare ground. It is found in flocks which sometimes number hundreds of birds when not breeding. It forages on bare ground, moving with short runs as it searches for seeds and some insects.


The nest is a deep open, cup, which is set into the ground, and is usually situated close to a grass tuft, stone or mound. The nest is lined with fine grass and rootlets. The red-capped lark breeds all year round, but mainly September to December.

Calls and Songs

The call of the red-capped lark is a tshwerp like a sparrow, and the song, given in the display flight, is a jumble of melodious phrases treee, treee, tip-tip, tippy, tippy tippy. It also imitates other birds.