Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2007-14

Common name:

Eastern Meadowlark

Scientific name: Sturnella magna
Date: 06/07/2007
Time: 12:30 pm
Length of time observed: 1 minute 30 seconds
Number: 1
Age: adult
Sex: n/a (assuming female)
Location: southeast of Blanding
County: San Juan
Latilong: n/a UTM 12 s 0636231 4161702
Elevation: 5825'
Distance to bird: 10 - 150'
Optical equipment: Opticall_Equipment: 10x42 Nikon binoculars and Canon Camera w/ 100-400mm lens
Weather: Weather: Breezy, and partly cloudy but warm
Light Conditions: Sun was behind a cloud, but otherwise it was good light
Description:        Size of bird: large songbird, like blackbird or meadowlark
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Plump bird with pointed bill and short tail
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: brown, black white and yellow
(Description:)            Bill Type: long pointed bill
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Looked like a very typical meadowlark (either species, in shape and overall plumage and color). The bird appeared to have a very dark eye line and crown stripes, along with a white malars and
pale brown auriculars. This made for a very striking head pattern with the white malar being quite noticeable.

Another unique feature was the streaking on flanks. The bird had long streaks from the shoulders to the undertail coverts on the sides.

The bird flew shortly after the initial observation and headed passed me to another field. Although I didn't have a great look at the tail, it appeared to show a lot of white across the entire tail, as ooposed to just the white edges of a Western.

(see photo)

Song or call & method of delivery: none heard which is why I am assuming the bird was a female.
Behavior: Sat on a sprinkler post looking around for about 45 seconds before taking flight, and dropping into the grass in a field about 250 feet its initial location
Habitat: One green agricultural field and one dry/dead agricultural field in an otherwise dry desert.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Western Meadowlark. Despite the bird not vocalizing, the distinct field marks I believe clearly eliminate Western. The rather crisp, and bold head pattern highlighted by a pale, white, malar, and very dark eye line and crown stripes point towards Eastern.

The streaking on the side is another good sign for Eastern, as Westenr are typically spotted or show short streaks and spots.

Finally the large amount of white flashed in the tail during flight would seem to point to Eastern as well.

Also of note was the rather quick departure from the perch it was using. Eastern Meadowlark tend to have a very abrupt and fast departure from the perched position, where Western may seem to have a slower and more relaxed departure.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
Have seen 1,000's of Western Meadowlarks from Oregon to Wisconsin, and numerous Eastern in Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana.
References consulted: Sibley Guide to Birds, and Kauffman Guide to Birds
Description from: Notes taken at time of sighting
Observer: Tim Avery
Observer's address: Salt Lake City, Utah
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird:  
Date prepared: 06/09/2007
Additional material: Photo  -- I will send another picture on Monday.