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BirdWire, March 18, 2017: Meadowlarks View this issue on a Mobile Device Find us on Instagram Follow us on Twitter Become a Facebook Fan Watch Us on YouTube! BirdWire on RSS
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Spring Is Here!

By Kyle Carlsen
Assistant Editor | Bird Watcher's Digest

The meadowlark ushers in spring with its familiar song, often from a roadside fencepost. Eastern meadowlarks sing a whistled song that some say sounds like spring is here! Western meadowlarks sing a rich, bubbly song that many would argue upstages that of the eastern. It was this song—along with more subtle differences in plumage and structure—that caught the attention of early explorers Lewis and Clark and made them realize they were dealing with a different species west of the Mississippi. Wherever the trails take you this spring, enjoy the song of the meadowlark. But first, a quiz. How much do you know about these birds?
How many meadowlark species exist worldwide?
a) Two
b) Three
c) Five
d) Seven

Meadowlarks are in the genus Sturnella. What is the western meadowlark's species name?
a) Westerna
b) Auduboni
c) Americana
d) Neglecta

North American meadowlarks are bright yellow in the front. What color stands out on their South American counterparts?
a) Red
b) Blue
c) Green
d) Purple

Meadowlarks are not larks. Instead, they belong to what family of birds?
a) Starlings
b) Thrushes
c) Grouse
d) Blackbirds

Which of these states does not claim western meadowlark as its state bird?
a) Montana
b) Oregon
c) South Dakota
d) Wyoming

True or False?
Eastern and western meadowlarks are impossible to separate in the field.

Where do meadowlarks typically place their nests?
a) On the ground
b) High on a horizontal branch
c) Inside a tree cavity
d) Meadowlarks don't have nests

What is a characteristic of both eastern and western meadowlarks?
a) Long, sharp bills
b) White outer tail feathers
c) Bold black V on breast
d) All of the above

How many times has a meadowlark appeared on the cover of Bird Watcher's Digest?
a) One time
b) Two times
c) Three times
d) A meadowlark has never appeared on the cover

By Kyle Carlsen
Assistant Editor | Bird Watcher's Digest

Since the dawn of civilization, birds have fascinated humans with their incredible diversity, glorious colors, and awesome power of flight. Year after year, hundreds of species travel thousands of miles from their southern wintering grounds to their breeding territories in North America. Many visit our backyards to rest, refuel, or even raise their next brood. Some go unnoticed. Others are far more conspicuous. Each is an inspiring example of one of the greatest wonders of the natural world: the phenomenon of avian migration.
We've hand-picked a few neotropical migrants to illustrate the amazing capabilities of birds. Imagine that oriole at your feeder, or those swallows in your barn. Those tiny travelers may have been in Nicaragua only a few weeks ago. They'll spend an hour, a day, or several months in your backyard or neighborhood, and then continue on their age-old, cross-continental journey.
Scarlet Tanager
A stunning combination of black and crimson, the male scarlet tanager in breeding plumage ranks among the most impressively beautiful birds of North America. From northwestern South America, these tropical beauties move up into Central America, cross the Gulf of Mexico, and then continue to the northeastern states to spend the summer months.
Barn Swallow
One early naturalist estimated that a barn swallow that lived ten years would fly more than two million miles, enough to travel eighty-seven times around the globe. These familiar birds winter throughout South America and summer in open habitats, such as fields and pastures, across North America. The majority of barn swallows migrate by following the Central American isthmus, though some cross the Caribbean.

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