M is for Meadowlark {Blogging Through the Alphabet}

Welcome back; I'm glad you're joining us again on this Blogging Through the Alphabet journey through birding. This time, it's the letter "M," for Meadowlarks.

I remember when we lived in Montana, the return of the Meadowlarks was one of my favorite signs of spring.

Eastern breeding adult
The Eastern Meadowlark is a chunky, flat-headed, medium-sized grassland bird, with a short tail and a long, spear-shaped bill. The breeding adult is bright yellow below with a "V" on the chest. The non-breeding adult is a paler yellow below.

During breeding season Eastern Meadowlarks sing often and fairly late in the day, so listen for their pretty, flute-like songs. It is easy to spot the males as they show off from posts or poles. In winter, they may be gathered up in flocks of up to 200 meadowlarks foraging in fields for leftover seeds and grains.
Eastern non-breeding
Eastern Meadowlarks eat mostly insects, including crickets, grasshoppers, caterpillars, and grubs. During winter they also eat weed seeds, spilled corn, and wild fruits. They get their food by walking on the ground and probing with their bill. First they push their closed bill into the ground and then open their mandibles to disturb the dirt and expose grubs and worms.
Eastern Meadowlark range
Although Eastern and Western Meadowlarks are nearly identical, the two species hybridize only very rarely. Mixed pairs usually occur only at the edge of the range where few mates are available.

Where Eastern and Western meadowlark ranges overlap in the central U.S., the two species refuse to share territories. Their songs sound totally different to each other, like a foreign language, so singing doesn’t always do the job of communicating territorial boundaries. Instead, the two species are likely to fight for territorial supremacy.

The explorer Meriwether Lewis was the first to point out the subtle differences between the birds that would eventually be known as the Eastern and Western Meadowlarks, noting in June 1805 that the tail and bill shapes as well as the song of the Western Meadowlark differed from what was then known as the “oldfield lark” in the Eastern United States.
Western breeding adult
The Western Meadowlark is the size of a robin but chunkier and shorter-tailed, with a flat head, long, slender bill, and a round-shouldered posture that nearly conceals its neck. The wings are rounded and short for the bird’s size and the tail is short, stiff, and spiky.

They have yellow underparts with intricately patterned brown, black and buff upperparts. A black “V” crosses the bright yellow breast; it is gray in winter. Contrasting stripes of dark brown and light buff mark the head. The outer tail feathers flash white in flight.
Western non-breeding
Western Meadowlarks live in open grasslands, prairies, meadows, and some agricultural fields ranging from sea level to 10,000 feet. They avoid wooded edges and areas with heavy shrubs. In winter they forage for seeds on nearly bare ground, in contrast to the Eastern Meadowlark, which tends to feed in more vegetated areas.

These birds eat both grain and weed seeds along with insects. They show a distinctly seasonal dietary pattern, foraging for grain during winter and early spring, and for weed seeds in the fall. In late spring and summer they probe the soil and poke beneath dirt clods and manure piles seeking beetles, ants, cutworms, grasshoppers, and crickets. As they forage, meadowlarks use a feeding behavior called “gaping”—inserting their bill in the soil or other substrate, and prying it open to access seeds and insects that many bird species can’t reach. Western Meadowlarks occasionally eat the eggs of other grassland bird species. During hard winters, they may even feed at carcasses such as roadkill.
Western Meadowlark range
John James Audubon gave the Western Meadowlark its scientific name, Sturnella (starling-like) neglecta, claiming that most explorers and settlers who ventured west of the Mississippi after Lewis and Clark had overlooked this common bird.

The Western Meadowlark is the state bird of six states: Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, and Wyoming. Only the Northern Cardinal is a more popular civic symbol, edging out the meadowlark by one state.

Thank you for stopping by today. I hope you will flit back in for our next stop on the birding journey, with the letter "N."

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Amanda @ Hopkins Homeschool
Christine @ Life’s Special Necessities
Dawn @ Schoolin’ Swag
Jennifer @ A Peace Of Mind
Kimberly @ Vintage Blue Suitcase
Kirsten @ DoodleMom Homeschool
Kristen @ A Mom’s Quest To Teach
Lori @ At Home: Where Life Happens
Yvonne @ The Life We Build

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  1. Beautiful birds! We see these in our area as well.

  2. Interesting...this is one bird that I don't remember seeing. Maybe I need to do some more bird watching in open spaces.

  3. I had wondered if you'd do the meadowlark, such an interesting bird...and I've never seen one here is SW Ontario.

  4. We should be seeing some of these around here. I'll have to head out to some more open areas to see if we can find any.


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