Tolpuddle Manor

Uk, Russia

Tolpuddle Manor

Uk, Russia
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Mills M.S.L.,University of Cape Town | Cohen C.,University of Cape Town | Francis J.,Tolpuddle Manor | Spottiswoode C.N.,University of Cape Town | Spottiswoode C.N.,University of Cambridge
Ostrich | Year: 2015

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. 2015 Copyright © NISC (Pty) Ltd


Spottiswoode C.N.,University of Cambridge | Spottiswoode C.N.,University of Cape Town | Olsson U.,Gothenburg University | Mills M.S.L.,University of Cape Town | And 9 more authors.
Journal of Ornithology | Year: 2013

The African lark genus Heteromirafra is thought to consist of three threatened species inhabiting mid-altitude grasslands, one in South Africa and two in the Horn of Africa. One of the latter, Archer's Lark H. archeri of Somaliland, has not been seen with certainty since 1922. We surveyed its type locality as well as a nearby area of grassland east of Jijiga in adjacent north-eastern Ethiopia, where sightings of Heteromirafra larks have recently been made. First, we used a combination of morphological and molecular evidence to show that these recent sightings refer to the same taxon as Archer's Lark. Second, we used a combination of morphological, molecular and vocal evidence to show that these populations are conspecific with the Liben (Sidamo) Lark H. sidamoensis of southern Ethiopia, but that the Horn of Africa populations are highly distinct from Rudd's Lark H. ruddi of South Africa. Third, we suggest that the extent and quality of their habitat in north-eastern Ethiopia is small and poor, and that the type locality of Archer's Lark in Somaliland has been completely transformed. Taken together, these results imply that there is a single species of Heteromirafra in the Horn of Africa (for which the scientific name H. archeri has priority, and which we suggest retains the English name Liben Lark), consisting of two tiny populations separated by 590 km of apparently unsuitable habitats. Environmental niche models suggest that there are no environmentally similar locations elsewhere within the region. Despite the discovery of a second population, the Liben Lark remains a highly threatened species in urgent need of conservation intervention to avert the extinction of both of its populations. © 2013 Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V.

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