Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Lark Bunting: Male, Female and Molting Plumage

Lark Buntings watched from fence posts as I drove through prairie pasture land along a township road south of Regina, Saskatchewan.

The male Lark Bunting in breeding plumage was the easiest to identify. Black, with a bluish bill and white wing flashes, this bird stands out from other tiny brown-striped grassland birds.

Lark Bunting in Saskatchewan.   © SB

The female Lark Bunting was also fine to ID — as soon as she pirouetted through a turn to show that she, too, had white wing flashes. And what a fine grasshopper! The other females of this species that I saw also had insects in their beaks. Great hunters!

Female Lark Bunting with Grasshopper. Saskatchewan  © SB

But this final Lark Bunting, a moulting male, baffled me. I couldn't guess what kind of bird I'd photographed until I got home and enlarged the image. (I use a lens that zooms to 300mm, but my bird shots are usually tiny crops from the resulting photograph; lacking super-vision, I can't see as far in real life as the camera sees.)

Molting Male Lark Bunting on Fence Rail.  © SB

This moulting male Lark Bunting has his own strange beauty, as his mating colours fade to winter browns, whites, grays. 

What are these birds? Lark Buntings  —  male in breeding plumage, female, and moulting male.
Along Township Road 102, south of Regina, Saskatchewan. 
Photo date:  July 23, 2012.


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