Streaked Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris strigata)
is small, ground-dwelling songbird with conspicuous feather
tufts, or "horns," on its head. Its back is heavily streaked
with black, contrasting sharply with its deeply ruddy nape
and yellow underparts.
photo by Dennis Paulson
formerly was a common nesting species in grasslands and prairies
west of the Cascade Mountains from southern British Columbia,
through Washington and Oregon. It was so abundant around Puget
Sound as to be a nuisance to turn-of-the-century golfers.
The destruction of 95% of native grasslands on the west coast,
however, caused cataclysmic population declines. The streaked
horned lark was likely extirpated from British Columbia in
1990. Though common around Puget Sound up to the 1950's, it
is now extirpated from the San Juan Islands. A total about
100 pairs remain divided between south Puget Sound and islands
near the mouth of the Columbia River. In the 1920's the streaked
horned lark was considered one of Oregon's "characteristics
birds" and was fairly common up to the 1970's. It is now extirpated
from the Umpqua and Roque valleys and occurs only in scattered
sites in the Willamette Valley. The states entire population
is about 200 pairs.
greatest threat to the streaked horned lark's survival is
the dramatic loss of native grasslands. They are perhaps the
most endangered habitat type on the west coast of North America.
Puget Sound lowland prairies have been reduced from 150,000
to just 4,000 acres- a 97% reduction. Willamette Valley grasslands
have been reduced to one-tenth of one percent of their historical
extent. The loss has been caused by agricultural expansion,
livestock grazing, urban and suburban sprawl, and fire suppression.
December 10, 2002 the Center For Biological Diversity, Xerces
Society, Oregon Natural Resources Council, Friends of the
San Juan's, and Northwest Ecosystem Alliance filed a petition
with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the streaked
horned lark under the Endangered Species Act. Listing under
the ESA will require protection of specific grasslands, prairies,
and woodlands as "critical habitat" for the lark and the development
of federal recovery plan. It will ensure that federal agencies
act to save the lark while encouraging state and private interests
to participate as well.