A small, compact finch-like sociable lark that is nomadic, and often irrupts in large numbers after good rains. The sexes differ in plumage: the distinctive male is mostly black, including under the wings, with chestnut-sprinkled upperparts; the female is reddish-brown above and streaked underneath. Small to medium-sized flocks (often mixed with Gray-backed Sparrow-Lark) can appear in grassy shrubland in the Karoo and Kalahari, where dark males are conspicuous when they fly up on broad wings and flap slowly in the fashion of a butterfly. They drop to the ground and land on bare patches, where they shuffle along foraging for seeds and insects. The female Black-eared Sparrow-Lark is told apart from other female sparrow-larks by its all-dark underwings in flight and the lack of a black belly patch.