Tell-tale Tails

Page 3 of 4

Tails of Western Meadowlarks

Photo of the Western meadowlark's tail feathers

Kevin J. McGowan, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology

Tails of Eastern Meadowlarks

Photo of the Eastern meadowlark's tail feathers

Kevin J. McGowan, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology

 

Lewis wrote: "this differs from ours in the form of the tail which is pointed, being formed of feathers of unequal length . . . "

 

Audubon's Eastern Meadowlark,Sturnella magna2

James Audubon drawing of the Western Meadowlark

Audubon, Birds of North America

The greatest difference between the eastern and western meadowlark, Audubon agreed later,

"is in the form of the tail, which in this [western] species is nearly square, and consequently has the feathers nearly equal, whilst in the common one [the eastern, or oldfield lark], the tail is rounded, and the two lateral feathers are nearly three quarters of an inch shorter than the middle ones; besides which, the central tail-feathers of the present [western] bird are narrowly barred, and not scalloped on their margins as in Sturnella Ludoviciana [LOO-doh-vee-cee-ANNA, of (the Territory of) Louisiana]."1

 

1. Audubon's Multimedia Birds of America, http://www.abirdshome.com/Audubon/VolVII/00799.html

2. Roger Tory Peterson and Virginia Marie Peterson, Audubon's Birds of America (Audubon Society Baby Elephant Folio; New York: Abbeville Press, 1981), Plate XX.