Meadowlark Nest

Many bird nests are so well camouflaged or concealed they are almost impossible to see or find. Yet when one gets near their nests, so many birds fly off, revealing the location of these hidden nests. I always feel the eggs or hatchlings would be much safer if the parents would remain still.

The western meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta) constructs a “dome” nest that, unless the bird discloses its location, is difficult to find. If the meadowlark that built this nest in our pasture (Lookout CA) had not flown off when Leonard approached, its location would still be a secret.

According to Peter Goodfellow, writing in the book “Avian Architecture“, the well-concealed dome nest of the meadowlark is aligned to provide protection from the wind. The entrance faces away from the prevailing wind. According to research conducted in Kansas, the meadowlark will shift the orientation of the entrance as the wind direction changes with the seasons. (Meadowlarks often have more than one brood per year.)

The meadowlark nest is a shallow depression in the ground concealed in grass. By weaving grass over the top of the nest, the meadowlark forms a covering and an entrance tunnel. One picture shows the nest and entrance tunnel from a distance. Moving closer to the nest, the entrance is more obvious and the eggs are visible.

A male western meadowlark will often maintain two mates. Females incubate and brood the young with minimal assistance from the male. The white eggs spotted with brown, rust and lavender hatch in 13 to 16 days. The hatchlings are born naked with their eyes closed, pink-orange skin and sparse grey down on the head and back. They grow very fast because within 10 to 12 days they fledge or leave the nest.

I will need to keep a close watch on the nest if I hope to get a picture of the young meadowlarks.

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