A survey for the Critically Endangered Liben Lark Heteromirafra archeri in Somaliland


The Critically Endangered Liben Lark Heteromirafra archeri in SomalilandAbstract

The Critically Endangered Archer’s Lark (now Liben Lark) Heteromirafra archeri was formerly considered to be endemic to north-western Somalia and known only from the Tog Wajaale Plain, where 18 specimens were collected between 1918 and 1922. Fifteen visits between 1970 and 2008 failed to relocate the species there, although populations are now known from adjacent Ethiopia. We conducted three days of intensive surveys on the Tog Wajaale Plain in May 2010. Despite the three other lark species present being in full display, and H. archeri being recorded to have bred in early June, no Liben Larks were found. Vegetation structure surveys indicated that the plain has a taller and denser growth of grass than either of the other known localities for Liben Lark (the Liben and Jijiga Plains) making Tog Wajaale Plain seem superficially more suitable for the species, which prefers areas of taller grass elsewhere. However, previous large-scale agricultural activities may have altered the composition of grass species and precipitated the observed invasion of exotic weeds, notably Parthenium hysterophorus. Importantly, the Tog Wajaale Plain has a greater density of bushes than either the Liben or Jijiga Plains, possibly making ground-nesting birds more susceptible to predation by perch hunters.



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