Sing Out!

Western Meadowlarks (Sturnella neglecta)

The Western Meadowlarks have pulled out all the stops. They’re singing at the top of their lungs here. And what pipes they have! In some spots, a single bird holds forth in a sustained solo. Elsewhere, such as on top of the dog park boundary sign in the video above, the soloist leads a chorus of a dozen other voices that chime in as the spirit moves them. Even other species, such as White-Crowned Sparrows and House Finches, perch nearby, mesmerized by the concert, and chipping in a note or two.

You can see why no fewer than six states (Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, and Wyoming) have this impressive and beautiful species as their official state bird. Here in the park, on the other hand, the meadowlark lives in the shadows of official recognition, forced to eke out what subsistence it is able in a habitat dominated by off-leash dogs. The birds may sing in the trees and shrubs, but they feed and breed in the grass. They build their nests on the ground, sometimes as open cups, or as grass-covered domes with entrance tunnels if the vegetation is tall enough.

When the park was newly opened, a consultant who studied its flora and fauna proposed the option of locating the dog park in the southeast quarter of the park, leaving the rest as a leash-only area where wildlife could thrive and be free of loose apex carnivores. Under that plan, the meadowlarks and other ground-nesting birds would have more security for for raising their families.

Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta)

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