Western Meadowlark

A Western Meadowlark perches on a fence rail.

Contributed by Jessica Martin

Jessica Martin took this photo at Cub Lake in Bear Valley Springs of a Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta) perched on a fence rail. Western Meadowlarks can be found in open, grassland areas throughout the Tehachapi Mountains.

Meadowlarks are in the blackbird family but are bigger and stockier than typical blackbirds, and both males and females have a distinctive yellow breast marked with a black V-shaped band like a necklace.

The most notable quality of Meadowlarks is their beautiful trilling, flute-like song, which the poet Henry van Dyke once described as "Leaking slowly upward from the ground." Often times you can hear a Meadowlark before you see them, for they tend to occupy low perches, on fences, shrubs, or even on the ground. Their lovely song is like a soundtrack for sunny grasslands and prairies, and six different states with prairies have chosen the Western Meadowlark as their state bird.

Like other members of the blackbird family, Meadowlarks have unusually strong muscles to open their bills, and they will insert their closed beaks into leaf litter, soil or bark and then open them to create a little hole that they can use to access invertebrates or other food sources.

Female Meadowlarks build their nests on the ground. These are circular, bowl-like structures lined with grass, and sometimes the female will also weave together some overhanging grasses to create a kind of roof over the nest. Males are territorial and will defend a choice nesting location against other males, and will assist the female by bringing food to the nest once the young hatch.

The Nüwa (Kawaiisu or Paiute) word for Western Meadowlark is osoro.

NATURAL SIGHTINGS is a regular feature of the Tehachapi News edited by Jon Hammond which showcases photos of the natural beauty that enhances the quality of life in Tehachapi. If you have a good quality image of plants, animals, insects, trees, birds, weather phenomena, etc., taken in the Tehachapi area, you may submit it to the Tehachapi News for possible publication. Submissions can be dropped by the News office in the form of a print or CD, or sent by email to: editorial@tehachapinews.com.