State Bird of Montana
By John James Audubon, F. R. SS. L. & E.
STURNELLA NEGLECTA, Aud.
Although the existence of this species was known to the celebrated explorersof the west, LEWIS and CLARK, during their memorable journey across theRocky Mountains and to the Pacific; no one has since taken the least noticeof it.
These travellers mention it at page 236 of the first volume, editedby PAUL ALLEN, Esq., and revised by ARCHIBALD M’VICAR. They say, on the21st June, 1805, “There is also a species of Lark, much resemblingthe bird called the Old Field Lark, with a yellow breast and a black spoton the croup. * * * * The beak, too, is somewhat larger and more curved,and the notes differ considerably.” The expedition was, at the periodmentioned, in the neighbourhood of the great Falls of the Missouri.
We found this species quite abundant on our voyage up the Missouri,above Fort Croghan, and its curious notes were first noticed by Mr. J.G. BELL, without which in all probability it would have been mistaken forour common species (Sturnella Ludoviciana). When I first saw them, theywere among a number of Yellow-headed Troupials, and their notes so muchresembled the cries of these birds, that I took them for the notes of theTroupial, and paid no farther attention to them, until I found some ofthem by themselves, when I was struck with the difference actually existingbetween the two nearly allied species.
In their fight, manners on the ground, and general habits, nothing differentfrom S. Ludoviciana could be observed; but on comparing the Missouri MeadowLark with specimens of S. Ludoviciana, procured near New York, the differencesare quite sufficient to warrant me to describe the former as a new andhitherto undescribed species. The bill of the Missouri Meadow Lark is morecurved, and considerably narrower, than in the common species, indeed itin scarcely more than one half the breadth of the bill of the latter. TheMissouri Lark is also considerably smaller, but the greatest differenceis in the form of the tail, which in this species is nearly square, andconsequently has the feathers nearly equal, whilst in the common one, thetail is rounded, and the two lateral feathers are nearly three quartersof an inch shorter than the middle ones; besides which, the central tail-feathersof the present bird are narrowly barred, and not scalloped on their marginsas in Sturnella Ludoviciana. The nest in not covered over, and the eggsare considerably smaller, and differently marked. This species is veryshy, but abundant on all the prairies; its flesh resembles that of thecommon bird, and is indifferent eating.
MISSOURI MEADOW-LARK, Sturnella neglecta, Aud. 10, 16.
Upper Missouri. Abundant.
The male measures 10 inches from the point of the bill to the end ofthe tail, to end of claws 11 1/4; alar extent 16; wing from flexure 4 7/8;tail 3. Third quill longest. Bill along the ridge 1 and nearly 3/8, alongthe edge 1 3/8; tarsus 1 5/8; middle toe 1, its claw 3/8; hind toe 5/8,its claw 1/2.
The eggs, which are usually four or five in number, measure 1 1/8 inchesin length, by 3/4 in breadth, pure white ground. The spots are more bold,larger, and of a brighter reddish colour than those of S. Ludoviciana,and are diffused over the whole surface, instead of being crowded towardthe larger end, as is the case in the common species. The irides are brownish,and the hairs on the upper eye-lid longer and more numerous. The generalcolours and markings are much the same in both species, but much palerin the present one.
Web version of John James Audubon’s work. “The Birds of America”
Portions copyright © Creative Multimedia Corp., 1990-91, 1992
Published with permisson by Marchex, Inc