The beautiful Western Meadowlarks were out in force on Saturday morning. Something flushed them at one point and I estimated more than 40 of these birds in the air. When they settled, some perched in shrubs and began to sing, while others plowed through the grasses foraging and possibly selecting nest sites. The singers made an impressive concert. The bird in the first part of the video was part of that flock on the west slope of the park. The other sang more or less solo on the east side, near the Burrowing Owl Sanctuary. There an American Crow could not resist joining in, as if in a drunken karaoke.
Young meadowlarks learn their songs from adult male birds during the first two or three months. If separated from their species and raised with other species — in experiments by researchers — they will learn the songs of the other species, such as Red-winged Blackbirds. The basic meadowlark song is the same wherever the birds are found, but birds in different geographic ranges will develop variations that not only other meadowlarks but also humans can recognize. Since males and females look the same, researchers could not determine who did the singing until they color-banded a number of birds and determined that males did all the singing. Males typically will repeat the same song many times, and then switch to another.
The singing is mainly about mate selection and breeding. Males that have a greater number of songs in their repertoire have longer wings, find a mate more quickly, and their brood fledges more successfully. Researchers found that some meadowlarks in California started nesting as early as the second week of March, although April through June is more typical. They nest on the ground, in the grasses and other vegetation. In the absence of any enforcement of the dog leash law in the park, there is no safe habitat where these beautiful birds can safely raise their families.