STREAKED HORNED LARK CONSERVATION
Photo – David Leonard, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The Streaked Horned Lark is a ground-dwelling songbird found on wide-open landscapes west of the Cascade Mountains in Oregon and Washington. Their natural habitat includes prairies, sandy river islands and ocean beaches, but many of these habitats have been lost or degraded. Pre-European settlement, Streaked Horned Larks ranged from western British Columbia south through the Rogue River Valley of Oregon, but the range has shrunk and the population has declined precipitously. The birds are now limited to airports and farmlands in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, grasslands in the Puget Sound lowlands, dredge spoil islands in the lower Columbia River, and coastal beaches in Washington.
It is believed that less than 2,000 individual birds remain. In October 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Streaked Horned Lark as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act. To stem this declining trend, Pacific Birds has joined with the American Bird Conservancy, Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and the Oregon Farm Bureau in a collaborative lark partnership. The aim is to conserve lark habitat on both private and public lands.
Implementing conservation actions now could help grow the Streaked Horned Lark population, a crucial step towards de-listing.
In the Willamette Valley, farmers are key to these conservation efforts, as larks and farms can coexist with management that includes “lark friendly” farming practices. The partnership is working on outreach and incentives to encourage the conservation of lark habitat using voluntary measures on agricultural and other private lands. When the lark was listed as threatened, a special exemption–called a 4(d) rule–was made for agricultural operations, setting the stage for collaborative conservation on working lands.
For more information, contact: Niles Brinton Pacific Birds Conservation Specialist