Archer's lark (Heteromirafra archeri) is a species of lark in the Alaudidae family. It is found in Somalia and Ethiopia. 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 binomial commemorate the British explorer and colonial official Sir Geoffrey Francis Archer.
Archer’s lark is about 14 cm long, with a relatively large head and short, plump body. It has buff underparts with a streaky breast. Its plumage is predominantly brown and reddish brown. It has a short, thin tail which is brown with white outer feathers. The call is unknown. The Sidamo lark was previously considered distinct, but most taxonomists consider the bird to conspecific with Archer's lark.
The birds are largely terrestrial and their behaviour is cryptic. Though quite capable of flight, they often prefer to conceal themselves in vegetation.
Nests have been found in summer. Clutch-size is three.
Its diet is likely to consist of seeds and small invertebrates, including worms.
Distribution and habitat
The bird's preferred habitat is open grasslands and rocky country, vegetated with tussocky perennial grasses and having an annual rainfall of 300-400 mm. The birds have not been recorded from the Wajaale clay plains on the border of Ethiopia and Somaliland since 1922. Since its initial discovery in 1922, the bird's range is reported to have declined to an area of only 2 km2 in Somalia, because of habitat loss.
Status and conservation
The population is estimated to number 50-250 mature individuals, based on a lack of confirmed sightings despite several searches having been conducted since 1955 in Somalia and Ethiopia. One of the last possible sightings of the bird was in Ethiopia in 2003. The species was declared critically endangered in 2005, although, because of its elusiveness, no conversation efforts have been attempted.
In 2011, David Hoddinott and his bird watching group had a sighting of a bird that may have been an Archer's lark in north-eastern Ethiopia. They were able to get a photograph which is being studied to confirm the observation.
Since 1922 much former habitat in Somalia has been occupied by refugees and turned into farmland. Grassland is being degraded by invasive Parthenium hysterophorus. Apart from habitat loss to agriculture, pastoralism and invasive weeds, threats include wildfire, severe weather events and climate change.
- BirdLife International (2013). "Heteromirafra archeri". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael (2003). Whose Bird? Men and Women Commemorated in the Common Names of Birds. London: Christopher Helm. p. 29.
- BirdLife International (2013) Species factsheet: Heteromirafra archeri. Retrieved 25 October 2012
- Butchart, Stuart. "Birds to Find: A Review of ‘lost’, Obscure and Poorly Known African Bird Species." Bull ABC, 2007. Web. 22 Oct. 2012.
- IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. <http://www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 18 October 2012
- BirdLife International 2012. Heteromirafra archeri. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.1. <http://www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 15 October 2012
- Birding Africa, June 2010. "Archer's Lark Grasslands in Somaliland Invaded by Noxious Parthenium Weed". Retrieved 25 October 2012
- Paul F. Donald, Graeme M. Buchanan, Nigel J. Collar, Yilma Dellelegn Abebe, Merid N. Gabremichael, M. A. Kiragu Mwangi, Paul Kariuki Ndang'ang'a, Claire N. Spottiswoode and Mengistu Wondafrash (2010). Rapid declines in habitat quality and population size of the Liben (Sidamo) Lark Heteromirafra sidamoensis necessitate immediate conservation action. Bird Conservation International, 20, pp 112 doi:10.1017/S0959270910000018
- "Archer's Lark." Species2011S. Web. 25 Oct. 2012. <http://species2011s.wikispaces.com/4 Archer's Lark>
- Rock Jumping Team. "Rockjumper - Worldwide Birding Adventures: Significant Ethiopian Discovery - Heteromirafra Larks by David Hoddinott". 16 May 2011. Retrieved 25 Oct. 2012.
- Species factsheet - BirdLife International