The yellow-breasted meadowlarks have been long debated as to the number of species involved. F. Keith Baker, et. al., in the October 2008 issue of the Auk, the journal of the American Ornithologists' Union, have postulated the yellow-breasted meadowlark form from the desert southwest of the U.S. and Mexico is a distinct taxon, Lilian's Meadowlark Sturnella lilianae. Their conclusion is based on an examination of sequence data from mitochondrial genes and sex-linked markers taken from samples of all three yellow-breasted meadowlark forms from across their ranges. These data strongly support the existence of three differentiated, historically isolated lineages. The authors recommend species recognition for S. lilianae.
Photo by Bill Maynard
The AOU Check-list Committee's annual supplement to the AOU Check-list is published in July. In the meantime, birders visiting the range of "Lilian's" Meadowlark, may want to search desert grasslands of northwest and central (winter) Arizona, east to southern and northeast New Mexico to west Texas, south to northeast Sonora and northern Chihuahua (Birds of North America Online). "Lilian's" Meadowlark is the most distinctive of the current Eastern Meadowlarks with very narrow barring on wings and tail, very short tail, paler and grayer above and more white in the tail than other subspecies. It can be separated from Western Meadowlark by the third from the outside rectrix (tail feather) essentially white, while appearing mostly dark in Westerns. Analysis of primary song also suggests full species status (Birds of North America Online). Stay tuned for more.