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The Archer's Lark (Heteromirafra archeri) is a species of lark in the Alaudidae family. It is endemic to Somalia. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry shrubland and subtropical or tropical dry lowland grassland. It is threatened by habitat loss. The bird’s common name and Latin binomial commemorate the British explorer and colonial official Sir Geoffrey Francis Arthur. 
The Archer’s Lark is a fairly small bird in comparison to most other birds. The Archer’s Lark stands 14 centimeters tall. Despite the lack of height, the more prominent feature on this specific type of Lark is the large head that sits atop its short plump body. The large head rests on the upper body, which consists of a scale-like texture. On the opposite side of the upper body is where most of the muscle can be found because the Archer’s Lark is said to have ‘buff’ underparts. Spotting an Archer’s Lark may be more difficult than expected. It contains a streaky pattern of feathers that are confined to the breast on the under part of the bird. The main colors that encompass the birds are mainly brown and red. The brown is the primary color, which can be seen accented by various shades of red throughout the body. When examining the tail of the bird, it is important to point out that the Archer’s Lark has a short and very thin tail. The tail is brown with white outer tail feathers to enhance the bird’s physique. There are no known recordings so its song (the sound the bird makes) is unknown, and because none have been seen since the 1950s, we may never know what the song sounds like. A reason for never being able to record the song of an Archer’s Lark is the fact that this bird is completely shy when it comes down to confronting people. Instead of flying around like normal birds, this bird can be seen traveling on the ground through thick grass to avoid being noticed by people. Very few have been spotted to date, which is why information is at a premium when it comes to this type of lark, the Archer’s Lark.
The population is estimated to be a number from 50-250 mature individuals, based on a lack of confirmed sightings since 1955, despite over 15 searches having been conducted in the past 40 years throughout Somalia and Ethiopia. Since its initial discovery in 1922, the Archer’s Lark is reported to have a range of only two square kilometers in Somalia, although this scope suggests a high density of the bird which has not been located. This is attributed to subsequent changes in the local habitat at the species’s originally cited area. One of the last possible sightings of this bird was in Ethiopia in 2003. The species was officially declared Critically Endangered in 2005, although because of its elusiveness, no conversation efforts have been made to save this species.
Although it lives in mostly open grasslands and open rocky countryside, the Archer's Lark avoids open spaces and makes its way through any grass or bush cover it can find. Its habitat receives approximately 30-40 centimeters of rainfall per year. It also flies periodically and nests have been spotted during the Summer. Its diet remains unconfirmed, but like other larks it likely feeds on seeds and small insects, including worms. The lark's clutch-size is 3 eggs. Their land has been claimed by African refugees and turned into farmlands. The grasses in their habitat, which they need to survive are being destroyed by the Parthenium hysterophorus weed. The only known site for the Archer’s Lark and the area being affected is the Wajaale clay plains on the border of Ethiopia and Somaliland where they have not been seen since 1922.
Taxonomy and Adaptation
The Archers Lark falls under the Passeriformes family, meaning “perching birds”. The genus that the Archer’s Lark is placed within is Alaudidae, meaning “larks”. The Archer’s lark is also known by scientific name (Heteromirafra archeri). The Archer’s Lark has adapted to its surroundings in a few ways. The birds coloring for one is mainly brown and red. This type of neutral coloring helps it conceal itself while traveling throughout the open grassland/rocky terrain that is their habitat. This is important because this bird is known to travel on the ground in place of flying most of the time. Also, the fact that the Archer’s Lark is extremely tiny, standing at just 14 cm plays a part in the adaptation to their environment because it is able to hide in small areas and scurry just under the thick grasslands from predators. It is quite obvious and sad to say at the same time that they were not able to adapt to the people and noxious plants that have invaded their homes. These factors had an impact on the species by cultivating and farming the Archer’s Lark habitat, shedding their protection and home from them. Another major characteristic, the long-claw of the lark, is so prominent, that in Somali this is what the bird is known for. It is hard to say exactly what this adaptation is used for because information on this lark is so sparse that their specific eating habits aren’t written about. It is possible that their long claws were used to dig out specific insects. Many larks eat small insects like worms or other land critters, along with eating small seeds. This is just a speculation when it comes to their diet and the adaptation of their long claws.
Threats and Human Interaction
The Archer's Lark is known to avoid open and deserted spaces, so they would not be found in the developed plains and farmlands. They’re habits are very secretive and it makes them very hard to find and observe. They don’t go into open space, fly very often, and hides in grass. As mentioned before, they are extremely difficult to encounter due to the series of threats that take part into their endangerment. Most of the threats are directly related to the disappearance of their habitat. They include agriculture and aquaculture, annual and perennial non-timber crops, small-holder farming, climate-change, severe weather, habitat shifting, and alterations of habitats.
In 1922, the grasslands of Somalia were taken over and cultivated by African refugees. This particular area had a lot of tussocky perennial grasses, which is the Archer's Lark's main habitat. Though these refugees left the area about 19 years ago, the land is used heavily for farming and ranching. This habitat has been killed by establishments, farming, fires, and the invasion of other herbs and plant life. An example of a weed that has especially killed off the original habitat is the Parthenium Weed. Parthenium weed, is a type of weed that is rapidly spreading all across Somalia and nearby regions. With contributions from humans and unstoppable weeds, the Archer’s Lark’s living spaces are being destroyed, decreasing the population further than it already has been.
In 2011, David Hoddinott, and bird guide for RockJumper, and his group had a sighting of a bird that may have been an Archer's Lark in Ethiopia. They were able to get a photograph of this rarely sighted bird in north-eastern Ethiopia. Studies are still being done in order to correctly identify the bird in the photographs. If in fact the photos are of an Archer's Lark, researchers will be able to go gather more information about the population and ecology of this species, in order to develop with new conservation policies. If this bird is found again, their land can be protected under the law.
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