One of the very first birds I remember from my childhood is the Western Meadowlark. I remember walking out our back door and hearing the Meadowlarks singing in the vacant lots surrounding our home on the Centerville Bench. I learned how to whistle their song and would carry on conversations with them, I would whistle and they would answer and still do.
I remember as a young scout going out to Antelope Island for scout camps and amazed at the numbers of Meadowlarks singing in the grass and sagebrush. They are still abundant on Antelope Island and at Farmington Bay, but because of the growth and development on the Centerville Bench where I grew up they are hard to find now.
One of my favorite birds, I love pointing them out to people during tours at Farmington Bay. Everyone has heard them but I am surprised at the number of people who don't know what they look like. Perhaps it is because they look so different when you see them from different angles. From the front they are bright yellow with yellow eyebrows, a black collar around their neck and breast. From the back they are streaked drab brown and gray. They also spend a lot of time on the ground making them difficult to see in the grass and shrubbery.
Like other members of the blackbird family, meadowlarks use a feeding behavior called “gaping,” which relies on the unusually strong muscles that open their bill. They insert their bill into the soil, bark or other substrate, then force it open to create a hole. This gives meadowlarks access to insects and other food items that most birds can’t reach.
The Western Meadowlark is the state bird of six states: Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, and Wyoming. Only the Northern Cardinal is a more popular civic symbol, edging out the meadowlark by one state.