27 June 2017

Staying Power

Life for endangered streaked horned larks poses many risks, but one member of this subspecies of horned lark continues bringing hope to conservation efforts aimed at protecting the birds, returning to his nesting site in western Washington year after year and lasting longer than even the identification band that gave him his name.

Photo of a horned lark (not Pinky though).
Born in 2009, Pinky the streaked horned lark keeps showing the tenacity of his subspecies. Last year, South Sound Prairies, an organization that promotes conservation, restoration, and preservation of native prairies in the South Puget Sound region, announced that Pinky had returned (still sporting his pink identification band) and built a nest at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord military installation.

Considering that the oldest horned lark on record was about eight years old, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's All About Birds site, and that fewer than 1,000 streaked horned larks remain in the wild, the news brought great excitement. Over the winter, I thought about Pinky occasionally and hoped 2017 would bring equally happy news about him. This year, the venerable Pinky returned again, sporting a slightly different look. Now eight years old, he'd lost his trademark pink band, but that didn't keep him from nesting in his familiar spot.

I learned this year's good news about Pinky while birding at the Glacial Heritage Preserve on Prairie Appreciation Day last month. The ornithologist who told me about Pinky couldn't hide his excitement and pride. That's understandable, especially given the endangered status of the subspecies and the powerful symbol of hope Pinky has become.

With that, I'd like to wish Pinky another great year with safe travels. Stay pink, my friend!

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