Stark’s Lark (Eremalauda starki)

Cover image by Zenobia van Dyk – Near Poffadder, Northern Cape – BirdPix No. 245207 Stark’s Lark


Stark’s Lark is a small species with a more elongate and slender build than other small larks. It is very pale and appears white from a distance. The legs are fairly long and spindly and the head appears large due to its crest and stout beak.

Stark's Lark identification features
Stark’s Lark (Eremalauda starki) – Karabib, Namibia
Photo by Alan Collett

Stark’s Larks is sandy, grey-brown above with dark streaks. It is almost completely white below with indistinct streaks on the breast. The throat is white and the face is pale and relatively unmarked. The crown is streaked and can be raised into a long, shaggy crest. The tail is relatively long and has a dark middle with white outer tail feathers.

The beak is pinkish-grey and is stout and heavy with a curved upper mandible.

The sexes are alike.

Juveniles have whitish tips to the feathers on the crown, back and wings.

Juvenile Stark's Lark in typical habitat
Stark’s Lark (Eremalauda starki) – Erongo, Namibia
Photo by Katharina Reddig

Status and Distribution

Stark’s lark is near-endemic to Southern Africa. It is distributed from the Northern Cape in South Africa, up through Namibia and into south-western Angola. It can be locally common but is highly nomadic and its abundance and range is largely determined by rainfall.

SABAP2 distribution map for Stark's Lark
SABAP2 distribution map for Stark’s Lark (Eremalauda starki) – February 2023.
Details for map interpretation can be found here.


Typical habitat for Stark's Lark
Typical habitat.
Augrabies Falls National Park , Northern Cape
Photo by Ryan Tippett

Stark’s Lark is a species of arid and semi-arid open plains, with sparse perennial grasses and Karoo shrubs on sands. It favours sites where there are patches of calcrete or scattered pale quartz or calcrete pebbles. It also occurs in open, arid savanna in the Southern Kalahari and on the edge of the Namib Desert where it is found on sparsely vegetated gravel plains.

Eremalauda starki Stark's Lark in habitat
Stark’s Lark (Eremalauda starki) is well camouflaged among the sand and pale pebbles of its favoured habitat.
Kenhardt District, Northern Cape
Photo by Ryan Tippett


Stark’s Larks are found in pairs when breeding. When not breeding they occur in flocks of several individuals up to a few hundred or even thousands of birds, which congregate in areas of fresh green grass after rains. They often occur alongside Grey-backed Sparrow-Larks and Lark-like Buntings. They appear able to survive without drinking water but they will drink regularly during the dry season if water is available. Drinks less often after rains have greened vegetation and increased insect availability. They fly to waterpoints in flocks. Avoids heat stress during the mid-day heat by crouching in shade. Occasionally perches on a low shrub or rock, facing into the breeze while holding its wings away from the body to cool down.

Forages by walking slowly on flexed legs, with its body close to ground, pecking items from off the floor. Feeds primarily on seeds from various grasses and shrubs. Arthropods also form an important part of the diet and include Harvester Termites, ants, beetles, bugs, flies, spiders etc. Also feeds on green plant material, especially the fresh base of grass stems.

Eremalauda starki feeding on termites
Stark’s Lark (Eremalauda starki)  feeding on termites – Near Windhoek, Namibia
Photo by J. Terblanche

Males start singing and displaying after rainfall has stimulated breeding activity. Sings from the ground, a low shrub or in flight display. During display the male rises between 50 to 200m above the ground while hovering or flying in slow circles, calling constantly.

Stark’s Lark is a monogamous, solitary nester, often in loose colonies. They breed opportunistically after rain and breeding may take place whenever sufficient rain has fallen. There is however a breeding peak from March to May after late Summer rains.

The nest is a neat cup composed of fine strips of grass, built into a slight depression in the soil. The nest is usually placed at the base of a plant or stone but sometimes also in exposed positions. The nest normally faces south or south-east for shade on hot days.

Clutches consist of 2 or 3 eggs and incubation takes 11 to 13 days. The eggs are incubated by both sexes. The nestling period lasts for around 10 days during which time the chicks are fed by both parents.

Stark's Lark in Namibia
Stark’s Lark (Eremalauda starki) – Near Maltahohe, Namibia
Photo by Michael Houlden

Further Resources

Species text adapted from the first Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP1), 1997.

The use of photographs by Alan Collett, Gregg Darling, J Terblanche, Katharina Reddig, Michael Houlden and Zenobia van Dyk is acknowledged.

Virtual Museum (BirdPix > Search VM > By Scientific or Common Name).

Other common names: Spizocorys starki (Alternative Scientific Name); Woestynlewerik (Afrikaans); Alouette de Stark (French); Starks Kurzhaubenlerche (German); Cotovia de Stark (Portuguese)

Recommended citation format: Tippett RM 2023. Stark’s Lark (Eremalauda starki) Biodiversity and Development Institute. Available Online at

Bird identificationbirding

Eremalauda starki in Namibia
Stark’s Lark (Eremalauda starki) – Spitzkoppe, Namibia
Photo by Gregg Darling
Ryan Tippett
Ryan Tippett
Ryan is an enthusiastic contributor to Citizen Science and has added many important and interesting records of fauna and flora. He has been a member of the Virtual Museum since 2014 and has currently submitted over 12,000 records. He is on the expert identification panel for the OdonataMAP project. Ryan is a well-qualified and experienced Field Guide, and Guide Training Instructor. He has spent the last 18 years in the guiding and tourism industries. Ryan loves imparting his passion and knowledge onto others, and it is this that drew him into guide training in particular. Something that he finds incredibly rewarding is seeing how people he's had the privilege of teaching have developed and gone on to greater things. His interests are diverse and include Dragonflies, Birding, Arachnids, Amphibians, wild flowers and succulents, free diving and experiencing big game on foot. With this range of interests, there is always likely be something special just around the corner!