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Regular readers of this blog know that I make occasional trips to the grasslands of Sonoita, about 50 miles southeast of Tucson. The terrain and habitat there, open country with miles of grass-covered prairies, is very different from the desert around Tucson, and the wildlife in that area is in many respects different as well.
My last couple of trips there were disappointing because I didn’t see much wildlife. However, I made the drive again a few days ago and this time was very different. Birds seemed to be everywhere. I suspect that, for many species, the advent of spring has triggered the urge to find mates and to begin breeding.
I saw meadowlarks, dozens of them, perched on shrubs and on fences. These birds were, in many instances, displaying — showing off their plumage — and/or singing. I have no doubt that they were advertising for possible mates.
We have two species of meadowlarks in southern Arizona, Eastern and Western. Western Meadowlarks are fall/winter residents whereas the Eastern species lives here year round. The two species very closely resemble each other. The Eastern Meadowlarks have white cheeks whereas the Westerns have beige cheeks.
The meadowlarks that I saw definitely seemed to be Eastern Meadowlarks. Their appearance conformed to descriptions of that species. More importantly, their behavior — advertising for mates — strongly suggested that they were of the Eastern variety inasmuch as Western Meadowlarks don’t breed here.
One individual put on quite a plumage display.
I can’t say for certain what he was hoping to accomplish but I suspect that he was signaling to female meadowlarks in the area that he was an eligible bachelor looking for a girlfriend. In this second image he fans his tail, a behavior that I hadn’t observed before.
Finally, he rouses. “Rousing” describes an avian behavior in which birds shake out their feathers. Usually, birds do this right before they fly, but this bird hung around for a while after he roused. I wonder whether the rousing may have been part of a courtship display?
I captured quite a few images of Eastern Meadowlarks putting on a show and I’ll feature more of them in days to come. I never tire of photographing this species. Meadowlarks, both Eastern and Western, are among the prettiest birds that one sees in our grasslands.
Images made with a Canon 5Div, 400mm f4 DO II lens+1.4x telextender, M setting (auto ISO), ISO 4000, f5.6 @ 1/1600.