The gift of birdwatching: Eastern meadowlark

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The Eastern meadowlark is a sure sign of spring in Iowa. Photo by Doris Brookens, allaboutbirds.org

“Spring is coming soon. . . . Spring is coming soon.”

The optimistic song of the Eastern meadowlark signals the changing of seasons. This week’s Birding Gift is found in open country. These are bright yellow, football-shaped birds with a large black “V” across the chest.

Eastern meadowlarks are often seen sitting on a fencepost or wire near hayfields, pastures, prairies and agriculture fields. They can be found on many Dallas County rural roads or at Voas Nature Area.

Their nearest relative, the Western meadowlark, looks nearly identical from a distance but has a very different descending flute-like call.

The number of Eastern meadowlarks has been in steep decline due to early mowing of ditches and hayfields, the conversion of small family farms to large monocultures and the use of pesticides.

To learn more about why Eastern and Western meadowlarks are separate species, watch the video of the Eastern meadowlark in action, and hear their song.

Mike Havlik is a naturalist in the Dallas County Conservation Department.

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