email a friend
printable version
Archer's Lark Heteromirafra archeri
BirdLife Species Champion Become a BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme Supporter
For information about BirdLife Species Champions and Species Guardians visit the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme.

There have been no confirmed sightings of this species since 1955 despite some recent searches, suggesting that it now has an extremely small population and range (Collar and Stuart 1985). These are likely to be declining, owing to ongoing habitat degradation. For these reasons it is classified as Critically Endangered. It is probably still extant because the lack of records is likely to be partly a consequence of its secretive habits and the fairly restricted nature of recent surveys.

Taxonomic source(s)
Dowsett, R. J.; Forbes-Watson, A. D. 1993. Checklist of birds of the Afrotropical and Malagasy regions. Tauraco Press, Li
Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.

14 cm. Small, large-headed, plump, short-tailed lark. Upperparts heavily "scaled". Buffy underparts with heavy streaking confined to breast. Erectile crest. Short and thin tail, with white outer tail feathers. Similar spp. Singing Lark Mirafra cantillans is longer-tailed, with obvious rusty wing-patches. Voice Undescribed.

Distribution and population
Heteromirafra archeri is known from a very restricted area from Jifa Medir to Ban Wujaleh, west of Hargeisa in north-west Somalia, along the Ethiopian frontier. It was not seen at its original site, or in the area of Ethiopia adjacent to its range in Somalia, during five visits to the region between the 1970s and 1990s (J. S. Ash in litt. 1999), nor on ten occasions during 1996-2006 (J. Miskell in litt. 2006), although a possible sighting was reported from there in 2003 (G. Mulholland in litt. 2004), and another was claimed in Jijiga, extreme eastern Ethiopia in 2004 (H. Shirihai in litt. 2004). In June 2010, a search for the species in the Wajalle Plains and surrounding area in Somalia was unsuccessful, raising the possibilities that the species is locally extinct or that original locations were recorded erroneously (A. Jama in litt. 2010). However, its secretive habits make it very difficult to observe.

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 50-249 mature individuals, based on a lack of confirmed sightings since 1955 despite several recent searches, and subsequent changes in the habitat at the species's type locality. The estimate equates to 75-374 individuals in total, rounded here to 70-400 individuals.

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be in decline owing to human pressures on the species's habitat including settlement and farming (del Hoyo et al. 2004), however the likely rate of decline has not been quantified.

This species is found in an area with 300-400 mm rainfall per year. Habitat at its two known sites varies: one is open grassland and the other fairly open, rocky country with scattered and sparse bush and limited grass cover (Ash and Miskell 1998). It avoids open spaces, creeping through grass cover, and flies reluctantly (Ash and Miskell 1998). Its diet is unknown. Nests have been observed in June, and clutch-size is three (Ash and Miskell 1998).

The original grassland site in Somalia was settled and cultivated by refugees (J. S. Ash in litt. 1999), resulting in the disappearance of the tussocky perennial grasses described as the species's habitat in 1922 (J. Miskell in litt. 2004). The refugees left 19 years ago, but the area is now more intensively farmed and grazed than ever before (J. Miskell in litt. 2007, 2008, A. Jama in litt. 2010). People have staked out land claims on the plain, and these plots are being surveyed and registered, and the owners issued with title deeds (J. Miskell in litt. 2007, 2008). Habitat has also been lost and degraded through the establishment of settlements, fires and invasion of alien shrubs and herbs (A. Jama in litt. 2010).

Conservation Actions Underway
The type locality was visited briefly in May 2008 but no birds were located (J. Miskell in litt. 2007, 2008). If the bird is found again, then some land could be legally purchased and protected (J. Miskell in litt. 2007, 2008). Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct surveys to establish its range, distribution and population status: Intensive searches are needed along the Ethiopian-Somali border, perhaps in April-May when it may be singing and more conspicuous. When it is re-discovered, investigate how it is affected by grazing. Purchase land for appropriate management.

Ash, J. S.; Miskell, J. E. 1998. Birds of Somalia. Pica Press, Robertsbridge, U.K.

Collar, N. J.; Stuart, S. N. 1985. Threatened birds of Africa and related islands: the ICBP/IUCN Red Data Book. International Council for Bird Preservation, and International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, Cambridge, U.K.

Text account compilers
Bird, J., Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Harding, M., Mahood, S., Shutes, S., Starkey, M., Symes, A. & Taylor, J.

Ash, J., Jama, A., Miskell, J., Mulholland, G., Robertson, P. & Shirihai, H.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Taylor, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2014) Species factsheet: Heteromirafra archeri. Downloaded from on 13/07/2014. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2014) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 13/07/2014.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Critically Endangered
Family Alaudidae (Larks)
Species name author Clarke, 1920
Population size 50-249 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 2 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species