Friday, June 24, 2011

Western Birds

Where does western North America begin?  Even though all three of the birds in this post can be found in Minnesota, they are more associated with the west.  As a imprecise rule of thumb, the West begins at the 100th meridian.  In central South Dakota, that line runs just east of the Missouri River. On our recent road-trip we took a short detour through the Badlands National Park in western South Dakota.
Western Meadowlarks greeted us at the park entrance.  In most of South Dakota, unlike in Minnesota, identifying Eastern from Western meadowlarks is not too much of a challenge--Western Meadowlarks are usually the only species present.  Identification was confirmed by the Western Meadlowlark's loud, gurgling, "Have you planted your wheat yet?"  This call is quite unlike the Eastern's lazy "Sweet Sue" whistle.
An excellent location to find birds in the Badlands National Park is at the park headquarters. Western Kingbirds hawked for insects over the parking lot.  Notice the white edge to the outer tail feathers. 
Mountain Bluebirds are more restricted to western North America than are the two previous species.  But even they occasionally stray east to Minnesota.  This individual must have been nesting nearby, as evidenced by the grub it grabbed from the lawn in back of the park headquarters. 

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