Western Meadowlark — One of Three (Species)

You may enlarge any image in this blog by clicking on it. Click again for a detailed view.

Western Meadowlarks migrate to southern Arizona each fall and winter. Currently, they are showing up in large numbers in the grasslands of Sonoita and Patagonia and in the farmlands northwest of Tucson.

For years I had understood that there were two species of Meadowlarks that lived in southern Arizona. Western Meadowlarks, like the bird depicted in the two images in today’s post, are autumn/winter residents. Their very close cousins, Eastern Meadowlarks, supposedly lived here year ’round. The differences between the two species are very subtle. Western Meadowlarks have beige checks whereas the Easterns have white cheeks. The two species have different songs.

Things changed recently. The “Eastern” Meadowlarks in southern Arizona and in other parts of the southwestern United States have been reclassified into an entirely new species, the Chihuahuan Meadowlark. The differences in appearance between the Eastern Meadowlarks and the newly classified Chihuahuan Meadowlarks are even more subtle than the differences in appearance between Eastern and Western Meadowlarks. But, apparently, the Chihuahuan and Eastern Meadowlarks have different songs and the populations do not interbreed.

This time of year the overwhelming majority of Meadowlarks that I see and photograph are Westerns. However, I will search for a Chihuahuan and post an image or two as soon as I obtain them.

Images made with a Canon R5, Canon EF 400mm f4 DO II lens+Canon EF 1.4x telextender, M setting (auto ISO), ISO 1250, f7.1 @ 1/2500, +1 stop exposure compensation.

One Reply to “Western Meadowlark — One of Three (Species)”

  1. Carroll says:

    WOW! Learn something new every day. Thanks.

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