Western Meadowlarks forage on the ground, like many other birds. Some birds, like House Finches, just take whatever lies on the surface. Others, such as sparrows, scratch at the ground with one or both feet to get under the loose debris. The meadowlark goes deeper, and it doesn’t use its feet to do it. It uses that long, sharp bill, in an operation known as gapping (sometimes spelled gaping). It plunges its closed bill into the ground and then uses its neck muscles to force its bill open, thereby creating a hole (a gap) in the soil. In the video above, I’ve captured a few moments when this work is visible. The first few seconds of the video are in real time. It then switches into slow motion so that the bird’s actions can be seen more plainly.
And since we’re on the subject of Meadowlarks, Park visitor Evie Williams has proof that these birds don’t always stay on the ground, they sometimes perch for a while in trees. Thank you, Evie, for sharing these lovely images: