Thursday, April 3, 2014

Eastern Meadowlark

On Wednesday morning I drove over to Circle Lake in Rice County, Minnesota, and photographed an Eastern Meadowlark. I have previously written about the travails involved in telling Eastern and Western meadowlarks apart. In this case, identification was not difficult. The bird sang a series of lazy whistles unlike the Western's jumbled notes. Compare these two photos. In the first one, the Eastern, the yellow of the throat does not trespass onto the white lores (the area of the sides of the head between the bill and the beginning of the black necklace). In the second photo, a Western Meadowlark I blogged about last year, the loral area is clearly yellow.
Ornithologists are in general agreement that the meadowlarks are a distinct lineage within the blackbird family. This group is made up of about ten species, including yellow-breasted ones found in North America and red-breasted meadowlarks from South America. The oddest member of the meadowlark lineage is the Yellow-headed Blackbird.

In the early 1900s, Eastern and Western Meadowlarks were considered to be races of the same species. Now, despite occasional hybridization, they are thought to be two very similar species. Based on DNA research and slight plumage differences, many ornithologists consider the Eastern Meadowlarks of the desert-southwest are actually a third species, the Lilian’s Meadowlark. Recent DNA research also indicates that the Cuban subspecies of Eastern Meadowlark is also deserving of species recognition (Handbook of Birds of the World—Alive).

1 comment:

  1. I have photographed our Eastern Meadowlark and used to always see them in one field if none came to my house. They cut the field for hay a couple of years ago and none returned for two years. I assume they are back now but I will have to check it out. These are both nice photographs/.