Distribution and habits of the Sclater’s Lark <i>Spizocorys sclateri</i> on the Aberdeen Plain, South Africa
Keywords:Larks, Arid Zone, Sclater's Lark, Karoo, habitat association, conservation, endemic species, citizen science, BirdMap
Sclater’s Lark Spizocorys sclateri is classified as Near Threatened by the IUCN and is described as a species endemic to the arid Karoo biomes, which stretch from South Africa through to central Namibia. It is a rare and poorly understood species. We report on intensive BirdMap sampling by author ANON using the BirdLasser app across the Aberdeen Plain, that section of the Karoo south of the escarpment to better understand patterns of occurrence for this subpopulation. We also report on incidental surveys across the Greater Karoo, and comment further on a formal survey across the Karoo conducted between 2017-2018. Surveys around Beaufort West indicate a strong preference for a specific type veld associated with calcrete derived soils, with the indicator plant species Salsola tuberculata. We mapped these sites using their distinctive visual signature using Google Earth for the Aberdeen plain, suggesting suitable available habitat covering a prime area of 158 km2 and area of mixed habitat suitability of 685 km2. Monitoring from 2017 – 2022 at waterpoints for livestock indicate year-round occurrence, suggesting the species is resident in the Aberdeen plain, with no evidence for nomadism. Validation expeditions to parts of the range north of the escarpment suggest the strong habitat association identified for the Aberdeen plain also applies to that population. We raise concerns regarding this habitat for ‘big development’ and suggest this species is flagged as a species of conservation concern during environmental impact assessments, as there are no populations in formally protected areas.
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Copyright (c) 2023 Alan Tristram Kenneth Lee, Stefan Theron
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