Archived 2016 topics: Rufous-naped Lark (Mirafra africana) is being split: list M. africana as Least Concern and M. sharpii as Near Threatened?

This is part of a consultation on the Red List implications of extensive changes to BirdLife’s taxonomy for passerines

Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International will soon publish the second volume of the HBW-BirdLife Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World, building off the Handbook of the Birds of the World series, and BirdLife’s annually updated taxonomic checklist.

The new Checklist will be based on the application of criteria for recognising species limits described by Tobias et al. (2010). Full details of the specific scores and the basis of these for each new taxonomic revision will be provided in the Checklist.

Following publication, an open and transparent mechanism will be established to allow people to comment on the taxonomic revisions or suggest new ones, and provide new information of relevance in order to inform regular updates. We are also actively seeking input via a discussion topic here regarding some potential taxonomic revisions that currently lack sufficient information.

The new Checklist will form the taxonomic basis of BirdLife’s assessments of the status of the world’s birds for the IUCN Red List. The taxonomic changes that will appear in volume 2 of the checklist (for passerines) will begin to be incorporated into the 2016 Red List update, with the remainder to be incorporated into subsequent Red List updates.

Preliminary Red List assessments have been carried out for the newly split or lumped taxa. We are now requesting comments and feedback on these preliminary assessments.

Rufous-naped Lark Mirafra africana is being split into M. africana and M. sharpii, following the application of criteria set out by Tobias et al. (2010).

Prior to this taxonomic change, M. africana was listed as Least Concern on the basis that it did not approach the threshold for Vulnerable under any criterion. M. africana (as defined now following the taxonomic change) is found in a range of grassland habitats throughout Africa south of the Sahara desert (Ryan 2016). It is generally common particularly in east and southern Africa. In the north of its range it has become increasingly fragmented and so the population is suspected to be in decline (del Hoyo et al. 2004). However, this is not suspected to be at such a rate to qualify this species as threatened; and given it has a very large range, and is suspected to have a very large population size it is proposed that this species be listed as Least Concern.

M. sharpii is found on grassy plains in Somalia and potentially also Ethiopia (where it has been recorded once) (Redman et al. 2011). It has an Extent of Occurrence of c.21,200km2, and within this range the species may be under threat due to habitat conversion to agriculture (Ryan 2016). Its restricted range means that it may qualify to be listed as Near Threatened under criterion B1ab(i,ii,iii,v). The population size for this species has not be quantified, but with further information about this and population trends it may qualify for a threatened category under criterion C1+C2a(ii).

Comments are invited on these proposed categories and further information would be welcomed.



del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Christie, D. (2004) Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 9: Cotingas to Pipits and Wagtails. Barcelona, Spain: Lynx Edicions.

Redman, N., Stevenson, T. and Fanshawe, J. (2011) Birds of the Horn of Africa. 2nd Edition. Christopher Helm, London.

Ryan, P. (2016). Rufous-naped Lark (Mirafra africana). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 9 September 2016).

Tobias, J. A., Seddon, N., Spottiswoode, C. N., Pilgrim, J. D., Fishpool, L. D. C. and Collar, N. J. 2010. Quantitative criteria for species delimitation. Ibis 152: 724–746.

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2 Responses to Archived 2016 topics: Rufous-naped Lark (Mirafra africana) is being split: list M. africana as Least Concern and M. sharpii as Near Threatened?

  1. Michael Mills says:

    This is an interesting split; certainly sharpii is not a Rufous-naped Lark, but I believe it is probably conspecific with Somali Lark. That said, sharpii is certainly not only Near Threatened. We could find no evidence for its presence under perfect lark breeding conditions at two sites where it had been previously found. It has a very small range and its habitat is quite degraded by overgrazing. I would say it is either Vulnerable or Endangered, or not a good taxon.

  2. James Westrip (BirdLife) says:

    Based on available information, our preliminary proposal for the 2016 Red List would be to list:

    M. africana as Least Concern.

    M. sharpii as Endangered under criterion C2a(ii).

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline of 28 October, after which the recommended categorisations will be put forward to IUCN.

    Please note that we will then only post final recommended categorisations on forum discussions where these differ from the initial proposal.

    The final 2016 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in early December, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

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