By Meghan Dugan, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
October 1, 2019
Habitat created just for streaked horned larks on Herbert Farm and Natural Area (HFNA) successfully produced its first juvenile larks.
Three eggs were laid in early June with chicks hatching in mid-July. Biologists banded the chicks which fledged their nest successfully, a significant milestone as these ground nesting birds often succumb to predators and crop harvesting. Streaked horned larks are federally listed as Threatened and are an Oregon Conservation Strategy Species in the Willamette Valley.
The Willamette Wildlife Mitigation Program-funded property is owned by the City of Corvallis, and ODFW holds a conservation easement. Since 2013, the Institute for Applied Ecology (IAE) has been restoring fields that were once in agricultural grass and seed production for the benefit of grassland birds.
For ODFW’s Willamette Wildlife Mitigation Program’s project biologist Ann Kreager, it’s gratifying to see restoration efforts paying off.
According to Kreager, streaked horned larks are a “disturbance regime” bird that prefers large, sparsely vegetated habitat free of trees and shrubs. Fire and flood suppression have drastically reduced their historic range, restricting the majority of the remaining birds in the Willamette Valley to agricultural and industrial lands. Many agricultural fields in the Willamette Valley are being converted to hazelnut trees, further reducing habitat for the larks.
Kreager said creating habitat for these threatened birds has been a partnership with the IAE, Bob Altman of the American Bird Conservancy, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program.
The USFWS constructed berms to flood swales and promote bare ground with sparse vegetation, while the IAE conducted an attraction study that included placing life-sized wooden models of larks on the ground while playing recordings of lark vocalizations.
“All these efforts paid off with larks successfully breeding at the site,” Kreager said. “Once imprinted on the site, the odds of these birds continuing to use HFNA are very high.”
The Willamette Wildlife Mitigation Program is a 2010 agreement between ODFW and Bonneville Power Administration to mitigate effects to fish and wildlife from the Willamette River Basin Flood Control Projects in the Willamette Valley. The program is managed by ODFW and funds being used to restore habitat at Herbert Farm.
We also acknowledge the help of Randy Moore, lark expert and instructor from OSU, who consulted on the project for the Corvallis Airport. The airport is funding some restoration at Herbert Farm to offset impacts to the nearby lark populations due to runway improvements.
Photos by Lara Jones.