The Palouse country in southeastern Washington features rolling hills, fertile soils, and grassland birds like this Western Meadowlark, which nests in native vegetation between wheat fields. Horned Larks are less choosy, nesting in the wheat fields and fledging their broods before harvest time. Other species, like Vesper Sparrows, occupy remnant grasslands and shrubby patches. Unless we take steps to preserve the remaining native habitat, our hunger for bread and our growing population could displace birds in the Palouse.
Written by Dennis Paulson
This is BirdNote!
[Western Meadowlark song]
A Western Meadowlark sings from a fence post in the Palouse [pa-LOOSE] Grassland in southeastern Washington. These rolling hills were formed from loess [LESS], one of the most fertile soils in the world. Deposited by winds, this fine silty soil has proven so good at growing grasses that most of it is now covered by fields of wheat. Meadowlarks build their nests in strips of native vegetation between the fields.
[Western Meadowlark song]
Horned Larks are less choosy, nesting right in the wheat fields and fledging their broods before harvest time.
[Horned Lark song]
They assemble in large flocks in winter, drifting about the snow-covered fields. The only other avian resident of the wheat fields is the introduced Ring-necked Pheasant, but many native species occupy remnant grasslands and shrubby patches.
[Vesper Sparrow song]
The Palouse grassland is awash with wildflowers in spring, and birds love it. Swainson’s Hawks cruise over the hillsides [Swainson’s Hawk call], while Vesper Sparrows sing from the scattered shrubs. [Vesper Sparrow song]
Our hunger for bread, however, and our growing population will make certain that wheat will replace the remaining native grassland, unless we take steps to preserve it.
Support for BirdNote comes from Forterra – creating great communities and conserving great lands in Washington State.
For BirdNote, I’m Michael Stein.
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Song of Western Meadowlark [uned] recorded by G.Vyn; song of Horned Lark  by G.A. Keller; crow of Ring-necked Pheasant  by G.A. Keller; call of Swainson’s Hawk  by W.W. H. Gunn; and song of Vesper Sparrow  G. Budney.
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2013 Tune In to Nature.org July 2016 Narrator: Michael Stein
ID# palouse-01-2013-07-10 Palouse-01b