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May 22, 2018

Return of Bird of the Week: Western Meadowlark

There are compensations for leaving Alaska. Surely one of them is the Western Meadowlark.

Western Meadowlark, Farm to Market Road, McCall, Idaho

Western Meadowlark, Farm to Market Road, McCall, Idaho

It’s one of our most abundant and widely distributed grassland birds, found in open country from natural and planted grasslands of the Northern Great Plains to the Sagebrush Sea of the Intermountain West to the tidal flats along the Pacific Ocean. Its common occurrence, colorful plumage, and superb song make it one of North America’s most popular birds. Six states have named it their state bird.

Western Meadowlark, Antelope Island, Utah

Western Meadowlark, Antelope Island, Utah

Despite the name and beautiful song, it’s not a lark. It’s an Icterid, a cousin to the Red-winged and Rusty Blackbird. As you’d expect with such a widely distributed species, it’s a generalist, with its diet varying seasonally: grain during winter and early spring, insects late spring and summer, weed seeds in fall. Its favorite insect foods include beetles, weevils, wireworms, cutworms, grasshoppers, and crickets.

Western Meadowlark, Swan Falls, Idaho

Western Meadowlark, Swan Falls, Idaho

The Western Meadowlark’s song is complex. Some 48 different songs have been identified, with males selecting a song in response to stimuli around it: other males singing, the presence of females, arrival on territory and many other things.

In early spring, the Meadowlark songs are a pure delight. Reason enough to get outdoors. In fact, WC will cut this post short and head out to the sagebrush now.

For more bird photos, please visit Frozen Feather Images.

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