Birds - Western Meadowlark
NPS Photo by Tom Bean
In 1844, John James Audubon comments on the "curious notes" uttered by meadowlarks along the upper Missouri River. He observed that although the species was known to members of the Lewis and Clark expedition, no one had taken the "least notice" of these birds since. in consequence, Audubon named western meadowlark Sturnella neglecta.
The meadowlark is easily recognized by its bright plumage. The yellow throat and breast are intersected by a distinct black "V". The bird literally makes a visual shout even before it sings. This brightly colored singer is commonly seen in the open grasslands perched on a fence post or tall weed.
The meadowlarks' arrival is one of the first indications of the arrival of spring. They are warm season residents of the prairies and grassy valleys, where they feed on insects. They winter in more temperate climates going only as far sough as they need to find snow-free feeding grounds. In the winter they primarily eat grains and seeds.
Have you heard the song of the western meadowlark? It is a distinctive flute-like yodel heard throughout the grasslands. This memorable song, produced by the males, is performed to attract females and is a proclamation to other males that the territory is occupied.
A search for a meadowlark's nest requires looking at the ground. The nest is constructed from dead grasses with hair lining it. The nest will be concealed in a small depression under a clump of grass or weeds. An average clutch of a meadowlark numbers three to five eggs.
Young meadowlarks leave the nest before they can fly and depend on being able to hide in the grass for safety. When the young leave the nest, they gather into groups and roam the surrounding countryside. What a great form of pest control these birds provide.
Fledglings quickly catch on to hunting insects on their own, easily capturing grasshoppers, beetles, crickets, spiders and a rainbow of caterpillars for their dinner.