The Streaked Horned Lark, a subspecies of Horned Lark, is a ground-dwelling songbird found on wide-open landscapes west of the Cascade Mountains in Oregon and Washington. Their natural habitats, including prairies, sandy river islands, and ocean beaches, have been greatly diminished. Today, Streaked Horned Larks are primarily 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.
In 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Streaked Horned Lark as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. The listing includes a special exemption that allows farmers to continue regular agricultural operations in areas where the lark is found.
In the Willamette Valley, larks use farm fields as nesting habitat, so farmers are key to the birds’ breeding success. With lark-friendly management, public outreach and other conservation actions, our hope is that the lark will not advance from threatened to endangered status, a more urgent listing that would eliminate the special exemption for farmers.
Pacific Birds is working with partners to:
Improve networking among stakeholders to better focus and align conservation efforts that benefit the Streaked Horned Lark.
Foster cooperative, incentive based programs that support Streaked Horned Lark conservation.
Increase awareness about the ecology and habitat needs of Streaked Horned among land managers and private landowners.
What We Can Do
The Streaked Horned Lark needs our help. In 2017, key partners joined forces to create a Conservation Specialist position solely focused on Streaked Horned Larks in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Housed at Pacific Birds, the position is funded by the American Bird Conservancy, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Department of Defense Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
A lark partnership comprised of Pacific Birds, the funding organizations, Oregon Farm Bureau and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, is focused on collaborative, targeted conservation for larks. Initial efforts include public outreach and promoting incentives to encourage the voluntary conservation of larks on agricultural and other private lands.
Federal and state lands that are managed for wildlife are also contributing to renewed lark habitat. It will take the efforts of all stakeholders working together to help Streaked Horned Larks rebound.
BY THE NUMBERS: Streaked Horned Larks
The most significant factor in the decline of the Streaked Horned Lark is habitat loss. Native prairies and grasslands have been converted to agriculture and residential uses, and non-native plants have encroached upon and degraded native habitats.
Latest Priority News
A new opinion column in the Capital Press is about Streaked Horned Larks on Willamette Valley working lands, and invites farmers to get involved in the Lark Partnership.
November is National American Indian Heritage Month. Niles Brinton, Pacific Birds Conservation Specialist, reflects upon how native land management strategies historically created the Streaked Horned Lark’s habitat in the Willamette Valley, and how this species has fared over time.
For the Streaked Horned Lark, harvest can be a time of great peril, but the fields do make excellent nesting and feeding habitat once the crop has been harvested. The birds prefer the low, sparse vegetation of areas that were covered with water in the winter–known as ephemeral waterways or drown-out areas.