Bird of the Month

The call for the western meadowlark can be heard throughout the Kittitas Valley from April until August.

Support Local Journalism


Subscribe


Anyone walking through the hayfields, grasslands, and sage in the Kittitas Valley from late April until August is likely to be serenaded by the distinctive and lovely melodious call of a western meadowlark perched on a shrub or utility wire.

This cheerful bird, with its bright yellow chest emblazened with a bold black V, is about the size of a robin, but with a longer bill and shorter tail. Although the chest is bright, the back is marbled with streaks of brown, tan and black, to keep it well camouflaged in the fields it calls home. The male and female are similar in shape and color. When flushed from the grass or brush, it appears to be rather chunky and bottom-heavy, flashing whiteon either side of the tail in flight.

Here in Kittitas County, meadowlarks arrive from their wintering grounds in the Southwest and Northern Mexico in mid-March. Nesting begins about a month later. The nests are on the ground, a grassy cup with a dome and side entrance that is well concealed in tufts of live grass. Eggs are white, speckled with brown and sometimes purple. Incubation is about 15 days, and the young fledge from their nest about 12 days later. They may have two broods, but the first brood is often done prior to first haying at the end of June, which prevents much mortality. A second brood, if it occurs, is more risky on cultivated lands.

During breeding, the adults and young eat a lot of insects (probably for the high protein content), but soon shift to seeds, which is their main food for the rest of the year. Meadowlarks have a very interesting feeding technique called “gaping”, where the bill is inserted into a group of grass stems and forcibly opened wide. When they do this, their eyes rotate slightly forward, allowing the bird to see directly between their jaws into the hole they have created, to pull out seeds and feed on the ground.

To learn more about our birds of Kittitas County, check out the Audubon website at KittitasAudubon.org, or meetings, which are held on the third Thursday of every month except summer.

Recommended for you

Comments

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.