25 July 2022

Arabian Red-capped Lark – Habala

Arabian Red-capped Lark Calandrella eremicais a scarce medium-sized lark that occurs in a very limited number of sites in southwest Saudi Arabia. It had not been seen for many years until recently when some birds were found at Azeeza near Abha. In 2015 birds were found in the Talea Valley and in 2019 in the Habala area. We went to Habala and parked in an area of black rocks that the species favours. Immediately we heard birds calling and saw at least 30 bird. They were very difficult to get near on foot but once we were in the car we managed to get better views and some photos. The adult plumage has a rufous crown which they sometimes erect to form a prominent short crest. Generally found in rocky wadis or rocky flat plan type areas with occasional bushes and scattered trees in Arabia where it occurs mainly between 1800–2500 metres. Previously the Arabian Red-capped Lark Calandrella eremite was treated as conspecific with Blandford’s Lark C. blanfordi, but differs in its smaller size; lower rump and uppertail-coverts not (or only slightly) shaded rufous vs strongly rufous; much paler above, including colour of crown and shade of buff and brown streaking and colour of flight-feathers; greatly reduced dark markings on underparts (i.e. blackish half-collar much less obvious, breast and belly only lightly washed buff vs strongly washed rufous), so white of throat and supercilium far less striking; bill generally much paler. Two subspecies recognized C. e. eremica from southwest Saudi Arabia southwards to Yemen and C. e. daaroodensis from north-east Ethiopia and northern Somalia.