Western Meadowlark

Sturnella neglecta

The Western Meadowlark look distinctively different from other members of the blackbird family. However, very similar in appearance to the Eastern meadowlark.

Mostly indistinguishable in the field, except for the song and range.

With this bird, the yellow does extend more onto the cheek than its eastern cousin.

They have streaked brown upperparts and solid yellow underparts with a distinct black collar.

The yellow and black are both more intense during the breeding season.

They have long legs and short tails with white outer tail-feathers that are obvious in flight.


Meadowlarks are open-country birds. They inhabit grasslands, shrub-steppe, and agricultural areas, rarely will they visit yards and gardens.

During winter, they can often be found in cultivated fields and wet grasslands


Western meadowlark

Western Meadowlarks flock in winter in single-species groups, or with other blackbirds and starlings. Meadowlarks forage mostly on the ground, running or walking, and probing the soil with their bills.

In early spring, Meadowlarks sing continually from shrub tops, fence posts, utility poles, or any other high structure in their open-country habitat.


Meadowlarks nest on the ground, often in small dips or hollows, such as those created by cow footprints.

Nests are typically under dense vegetation and can be very difficult to find.

Meadowlarks are polygamous. Successful males generally mate with two females at a time.

Females build the nests, which are grass domes with side entrances. The nest materials are often interwoven with adjacent growth, and small trails may form through the grass to the nests.

Females incubate 4 to 6 eggs for 13 to 14 days. The females brood the young after they hatch and provide most of the food, although the male may help. The young leave the nest 10 to 12 days after hatching.

They cannot fly at this age but can run well, and, with the help of cryptic plumage, can hide successfully in the grass.

Females often raise two broods a season.


During the summer, insects make up most of the diet. In fall and winter, seeds and waste grain become more important.


Western Meadowlarks are resident throughout much of their range, but when deep snow covers food sources they may move into sheltered valleys.

western meadowlark

Some populations appear to be long-distance migrants.

Conservation Status:

Meadowlarks are abundant and widespread, but breeding populations have declined slightly throughout their range in recent years.

Most of this decline can probably be attributed to habitat destruction from livestock grazing, mowing, and development, and contamination from pesticides.

The Western Meadowlark and Other Common Birds.

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