Western MeadowlarkSturnella neglecta

adult, breeding
Doug Wechsler/VIREO
adult, nonbreeding
Glenn Bartley/VIREO
adult, breeding
Arthur Morris/VIREO
Western Meadowlark

Description

8 1/2-11" (22-28 cm). Robin-sized. Streaked brown above, bright yellow below, with a bold black V on breast. Very similar to Eastern Meadowlark, but upperparts paler, and yellow of throat extends onto cheeks. Best identified by voice.

Voice

Rich flute-like jumble of gurgling notes, usually descending the scale; very different from Eastern Meadowlark's series of simple, plaintive whistles.

Listen

introductory whistles & flight song
churts, sputters, & song
rattles
churts
song #4
song #2
song #1
song #3

Habitat

Meadows, plains, and prairies.

Range

Breeds from British Columbia, Manitoba, northern Michigan, and northwestern Ohio south to Missouri, central Texas, and northern Mexico. Has spread eastward in recent years. Winters in much of breeding range north to southern British Columbia, Utah, and Arkansas.

Discussion

Where its range has extended eastward beyond the Great Lakes, this bird has occasionally interbred with the Eastern Meadowlark. The two species are so similar that it was not until 1844 that Audubon noticed the difference and named the western bird neglecta because it had been overlooked for so long. Its bright colors, fearless behavior, abundance, and above all its loud, cheerful song make the Western Meadowlark one of the best known of western birds. The song is often heard on movie sound tracks even when the setting is far from the bird's range.

Nesting

3-7 white eggs, with dark brown and purple spots, in a domed cup of grass and weed stems concealed in grass or weeds.

Similar Species

adult male

Dickcissel

6" (15 cm). Male like miniature meadowlark (yellow breast with black V), but has heavy bill and chestnut wing patch.

adult male

Bobolink

6-8" (15-20 cm). Breeding male largely black, with white rump and back, dull yellow nape. Female and winter male rich buff-yellow, streaked on back and crown. Short, finch-like bill.

adult male

Scott's Oriole

7 1/2-8 1/4" (19-21 cm). Male has black head, mantle, throat, and central breast area; bright lemon-yellow underparts, rump, and outer tail feathers.

adult, breeding

Eastern Meadowlark

9-11" (23-28 cm). Robin-sized. A stocky, brown-streaked bird with white-edged tail; bright yellow throat and breast, black V crossing breast.

Vireo

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