Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta)

The last two times I saw a Western Meadowlark in the park, they had the sun behind them and turned their backs on me. This time I got lucky. I was standing still with the sun on my back trying to film a couple of Savannah Sparrows when this much larger, dramatically colored bird came down the hillside behind them. I can’t tell if the Meadowlark didn’t see me or didn’t care; it just went on working for its breakfast. If you look carefully you can see that the bird is doing something with its beak that you don’t see sparrows or finches doing. Instead of pecking with its beak slightly open and grabbing something it finds on the surface, the lark pierces the soil with its beak closed and then forces its jaws open, creating a hole, where it may find edibles not seen on the surface. The Cornell bird lab website comments:

Like other members of the blackbird, or icterid, 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.
Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta)

More about them: Cornell Wikipedia Audubon In Chavez Park

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