Bird Lore: Western Meadowlark
The melodious song of a meadowlark evokes images of spring on the prairies for many of us. We don’t use “Edmonds” and “meadowlark” in the same sentence very often. The Western Meadowlark is considered by birders to be a rare sight in Edmonds, even though it is a resident of prairies, pastures, and fields of less developed remnants of the Western Washington lowlands.
The bird in this photograph was first seen near Edmonds marsh late last September and has over-wintered. It seems to spend most of its time in the beach grass at Marina Beach. The sex of adult birds is not determined by plumage variation. The meadowlark is either in basic plumage (September – January) or breeding plumage (February – August). The bold yellow on this bird indicates that it has molted into breeding plumage. If its black chest V remains drab, then this is likely a female.
All meadowlarks are blackbirds, meaning ornithology places them in the family Icteridae. They are described as open country blackbirds. Their flight style is one of shallow fluttery wingbeats. Western Meadowlarks breed in natural grasslands and abandoned weedy fields. Their diet consists of a variety of insects and seeds. They forage by walking on the ground, taking insects and seeds from low plants and by probing the soil with their bills. This Edmonds vagrant has obviously found a consistent food source in the uncultivated grasses of Marina Beach.
Carol Riddell, author of our new “Bird Lore” feature, manages the bird education displays, on behalf of Pilchuck Audubon Society and Edmonds Parks & Recreation, at the Olympic Beach Visitor Station.