The European population of Dupont's lark Chersophilus duponti, restricted to Spanish steppe, was estimated to be 13,000 pairs in c. 50 populations in 1988. There is, however, recent evidence that this number was overestimated because of the previous use of line transects for estimating population sizes. In 2002–2004 we surveyed 34 previously known local populations in patches of variable size across half of its Spanish distribution. We found 13 (38%) local populations to be extinct, and a total of only 283–339 territories in 17 of the extant populations, seven of which held <5 territories. This census contrasts dramatically with the estimate of c. 3,000 pairs in the same populations in the 1980s. We estimate that the present Spanish population is c. 1,300 pairs. The discrepancy between this and earlier estimates is partly but not entirely due to previous overestimations. Habitat loss due to ploughing, and possibly habitat degradation and the resulting stochastic extinction of small and isolated populations, have contributed to the species' decline. Urgent research is needed to design and manage an adequate network of steppe patches that will ensure the long-term existence of this species. We recommend that Dupont's lark be categorized on the IUCN Red List as Endangered, both globally and nationally within Spain.
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