Friday Photos ~ Horned Lark and Western Meadowlark

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Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris) male Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris) male  – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/2500, ISO 800, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

The image above shows what harsh conditions even the smallest birds in Utah have to endure during the winter, the male Horned Lark has frost on its rump and tail. The sun had been up about 25 minutes when I took this photo of the bird sunning itself on a rock.

Yesterday the pickups thermometer showed 3 degrees Farenheit, the coldest temp I have seen so far this winter. No wonder the lark had frost on it.

Horned Larks are year round residents in Utah. It isn’t very often that I don’t see or hear them when I am out photographing birds and wildlife on Antelope Island. I look for them on the sides of the road, in the tall grasses and perched on the rocks. I love to hear them calling, the sound is very soothing to me.

Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta) Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta)  – Nikon D300, f8, 1/1000, ISO 800, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

Western Meadowlarks are also year round residents of the island and can be found perched on rocks, Sagebrush, dried Sunflower stalks, on Mulleins or trees. At this time of the year they form loose flocks and there have been times I have seen well over 50 of them in small areas. Their call; while not as soothing to me as Horned Larks, reminds me of my childhood and brings back pleasant memories spent wandering through fields near my home.

Horned Larks and Western Meadowlarks are birds that I enjoy photographing all year long in Utah and yesterday they gave me some wonderful opportunities.



  1. Julie Brown January 18, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    I agree with Matt, Mia. Your images of birds really are among the best I have ever seen.

    These are two birds that I would love to get good photos of. I saw my first western meadowlark on Antelope Island, and my first horned lark last weekend in a snowy cornfield out in the country near my house.

    • Mia McPherson January 19, 2012 at 7:35 am

      Thank you Julie, I appreciate your’s and Matt’s high praise of my images and it certainly helps to have such amazing subjects. I think both the Western Meadowlarks and Horned Larks are very beautiful even though that beauty is subtle.

  2. Matt January 16, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    The greatest meadowlark photos I have ever seen, Mia. And I have seen and watched MANY meadowlarks, because they were they focus of my dissertation research in Nebraska for 4 years. Thanks for sharing, a pleasure as always.

    • Mia McPherson January 16, 2012 at 9:13 pm

      Matt, thank you for your wonderful comment on the meadowlark photo, they have such delightful plumage patterns. I bet I could learn a lot about them from you!

  3. Dan Huber January 16, 2012 at 5:49 am

    Wonderful photos Mia. I have only seen an Eastern Meadowlark once (they are around, just never see) but the patterns on the western are gorgeous.

    • Mia McPherson January 16, 2012 at 5:54 am

      Dan, I know what you mean about Eastern Meadowlarks, in Florida I could never get close to them because they were so skittish so I was very pleased that Western Meadowlarks aren’t quite so adverse to being photographed. Plus they are plentiful here on certain areas.

  4. Jeremy Medina January 14, 2012 at 11:52 am

    Wow, 3 degrees! Brrrr… fantastic photos Mia! The meadowlark photo is really special. My eye is drawn to that great color of the bill, then to its eye, down its intricately patterned back, and finally to the tail. Superb!

    • Mia McPherson January 14, 2012 at 5:37 pm

      Jeremy, thank you so much for your comment. I think the backs of Meadowlarks are so interesting because of the patterns there. They are tons of fun to photograph too!

  5. Bob Zeller January 14, 2012 at 9:14 am

    Great photos as usual, Mia. Oddly, I have never seen a Horned Lark, although according to my guides, etc., they are supposed to be plentiful. I need to watch for one.

    • Mia McPherson January 14, 2012 at 5:35 pm

      Thank you kindly Bob for your comments. Look for Horned Larks in open grassy fields, along the edges of golf courses and areas with bare ground, you should have these birds in San Angelo. I can’t wait for you to find one!

  6. Chuck Gangas January 14, 2012 at 5:40 am

    Beautiful birds Mia- these hardy guys don’t seemed at all bothered by the cold temperature-pretty remarkable…as are the stunning photos, as always.

    • Mia McPherson January 14, 2012 at 6:42 am

      Good morning Chuck, I wish you could have been there on Thursday, the island was gorgeous in the early morning light and very different compared to when you visited it. The birds handle the cold very well. Thanks as always for your kind comments.

  7. Bosque Bill January 13, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    I totally agree with everyone else’s comments (they took the words right out of my fingers.) Wonderful compositions, too, with clean backgrounds.

    • Mia McPherson January 14, 2012 at 7:10 am

      Thanks Bill, I appreciate your comments. Love it when the birds perch where there will be a wonderful background!

  8. Prairie Birder January 13, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    Very beautiful photos Mia. I can’t wait for the Western Meadowlarks to return in the spring, when they come back it is truly a sign of spring for me.

    • Mia McPherson January 13, 2012 at 8:33 pm

      Thank you so much PrairieBirder, it won’t be long and your Western Meadowlarks will return!

  9. Julie G. January 13, 2012 at 9:28 am

    Stunning photographs of two beautiful birds! The sharpness and details are exquisite. I enjoy watching groups of Horned Larks forage along the Lake Michigan shoreline in the fall. Lucky you that you see both birds all year long. Wonderful post, as always!

    • Mia McPherson January 13, 2012 at 8:32 pm

      Thank you Julie, the two larks were fun to photograph and the early morning light was delightful on their plumage. I aprreciate your comment on thiese images.

  10. Laurence B January 13, 2012 at 7:52 am

    Lovely images. I like the complimentary colors that the Larks bring together here, and you captured the detail and definition of the intricate brown feathers very well. It’s always a treat to stop by; thanks for sharing.

    • Mia McPherson January 13, 2012 at 8:27 pm

      Laurence, it is always a treat for me when you do stop by. Thanks for your very kind words.

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