Monday, March 2, 2015
Western Meadowlark on the California Prairielands
One of the most beautiful of bird songs is that of the Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta). I have seen few of them during the winter months, when they spend a lot of time on the ground looking for bugs. They'll sing, but they won't show themselves all that much.
As the spring season arrives they become more visible as the males perch on fence posts and treetops to advertise for love and companionship. We took a drive out into what I call the California prairielands, an increasingly precious region that is losing ground to rapidly expanding (but unsustainable) almond orchards. One might notice the irony that our singing individual is perched on a young almond tree. We were on Warnerville and Willms Road east of Oakdale, are part of the prairie that is particularly beautiful right now (look for some views in a soon to be posted Geotripper blog post).
The Meadowlarks are beautiful birds (aren't most of them?) that range all across the west and midwest of North American continent. There is an Eastern Meadowlark that is barely distinguishable in appearance, but differs in song and feeding style. It is the state bird of six different states: Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, and Wyoming.
The Meadowlarks have powerful jaws and sometimes feed by using a method called "gaping" where they stick their long bills in the soil and open their beaks to access seeds and bugs. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology offers additional information about these fascinating birds.
Our bird stayed still long enough to catch a few seconds of singing. Enjoy!