Bird Identification – Meadowlark – Old-field Lark – Meadow Starling

Every farmer’s boy knows his father’s friend, the meadowlark, the brownish, mottled bird, larger than a robin, with a lovely yellow breast and black crescent on it, that keeps well hidden in the grass of the meadows or grain fields. Of course he knows, too, that it is not really a lark, but a starling. When the shy bird takes wing, note the white feathers on the sides of its tail to be sure it is not the big, brownish flicker, who wears a patch of white feathers on its lower back, conspicuous as it flies. The meadowlark has the impolite habit of turning its back upon one as if it thought its yellow breast too beautiful for human eyes to gaze at. It flaps and sails through the air much like bob-white. But flying is not its specialty. It is, however, a strong-legged, active walker, and rarely rises from the ground unless an intruder gets very near, when away it flies, with a nasal, sputtered alarm note, to alight upon a fence rail or other low perch.

The tender, sweet, plaintive, flute-like whistle, Spring-o’-the-year, is a deliberate song usually given from some favourite platform—a stump, a rock, a fence or a mound, to which the bird goes for his musical performance only. He sings on and on delightfully, not always the same song, for he has several in his repertoire, and charms all listeners, although he cares to please none but his mate, that looks just like him.

She keeps well concealed among the grasses where her grassy nest is almost impossible to find, especially if it be partly arched over at the top. No farmer who realises what an enormous number of grasshoppers, not to mention other destructive insects, meadowlarks destroy, is foolish enough to let his mowing-machine pass over their nests if he can but locate them. By the time the hay is ready for cutting in June, the active meadowlark babies are usually running about through grassy run-ways, but eggs of the second brood too frequently, alas! meet a tragic end.