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Country Ecology: Meadowlark | Nature

Do enjoy the sweet, lazy whistles of Eastern meadowlarks appreciatively wafting over summer grasslands and farms in eastern North America. The male birds themselves sing from fence posts and telephone lines, or stalk through the field’s grasses, probing the ground for insects with their long, sharp bills, starling like.

On the ground, their brown-and-black dappled upperparts camouflage the birds among dirt clods and dry grasses. But up on their perches, they reveal spectacularly bright-yellow underparts and a striking black chevron across the plump chest.

The meadowlark has a short tail, with outer tail feathers largely white, which show in flight. It is a member of the blackbird family, though others have many more of this particular species in farmland communities south of here than we do.

It is often the most common bird experienced there; I do miss their emphatic presence hereabouts. They arrive in mid-March around New England and stay until frosts nip the meadow grasses they thrive in. Severe winters will kill them if they stick around too long.

Our male Eastern meadowlark’s primary song consists of three to five (sometimes up to eight) pure and plaintive flute-like whistles all slurred together and gradually dropping in pitch, up to 2 seconds long. Males have a repertoire of songs, singing one song repeatedly for a time and then switching to a different version. They typically sing from an exposed perch, but occasionally sing in sailing flight as well. If you Google up Cornell or other webpages featuring this song, you will see several musical variations.

Eastern meadowlarks give a single, sharp note when humans or other meadowlarks intrude on their territory. Another distinctive sound is a harsh chatter that lasts 1.5 seconds and is given by both males and females. Both sexes have a series of weet calls that they give…

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