Date: 7/4/17 6:02 pm From: Joel Geier <joel.geier...> Subject: [obol] [Fwd: Observations of a Streaked Horned Lark's song flight]
-------- Forwarded Message -------- From: Joel Geier <joel.geier...> Reply-to: <joel.geier...> To: MidValley Birds <birding...>, Mid-Valley Nature <mid-valley-nature...> Subject: Observations of a Streaked Horned Lark's song flight Date: Tue, 04 Jul 2017 18:00:33 -0700
This morning I was out on a private agricultural site near Airlie where I was monitoring "Oregon" Vesper Sparrows, the subspecies endemic to the Willamette Valley that have been proposed for endangered/threatened listing under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).
However this site also has nesting "Streaked" Horned Larks, another Willamette Valley endemic subspecies that's already listed as "threatened" under the ESA (so, the same status as "Northern" Spotted Owl).
So when I saw a male lark take purposeful flight about 80 yards away from me -- not flushed, just heading steeply up into the sky on his own -- I thought, "Hey, that guy is starting out on a song flight!" And then I figured, "I gotta watch this."
He flew upward in quick bursts of 3-4 wing pumps that lifted him upward at nearly a 45-degree angle, followed by a brief rest where he leveled off, before pumping upward again. It took probably 15 or 20 of these bursts to get up to where he wanted to be to start his aerial singing display.
By that time he was way up high. I'm not good at estimating aerial altitudes especially in landscapes like this one, where there were no good reference points, but I'd guess at least 200 feet, maybe 300 feet above the landscape.
Once he got up to where he was ready to sing, he sang while gliding on stiff wings. After each rendition of his song, he gave a few more wing pumps to regain altitude, then he'd repeat the whole sequence.
I watched him for about a minute, then figured I'd better get back to looking for Vesper Sparrows. But I could still hear him singing up there for a while, probably close to 5 minutes.
That's impressive stamina (especially, speaking as a guy who can't fly at all, no matter how hard I flap my arms). I hope he succeeded in impressing whatever female Horned Larks were around, and that they produce a nest full of Horned Lark babies.