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Western Meadow Lark

Sturnella neglecta


The Western Meadow Lark is about 8.5 inches long, and is distinguished from other meadow larks by its bright yellow underparts and black "V" on the breast. The flanks are white streaked with black, the upper parts brown with black streaks, and the head striped with light brown and black. The bill is long and pointed.

Western Meadow Lark

Distribution and Habitat

Western meadow larks inhabit tidal flats, cultivated fields, meadows, and prairies throughout most of the western and midwestern United States, southern Canada west of the Great Lakes, and northern Mexico. Some northern populations migrate south for the winter, but most stay in one general area throughout the year.


A specific breeding season has not been determined for this species, but most breeding is likely done in the spring. Males establish breeding territories, which they will defend against other males of their species as well as against male Eastern Meadow Larks. Both sexes are polyganous, with males typically mating with at least two females per season. The male courts females by jumping up and down with the head riased directly upward to display the distinctive chest markings.

Both sexes work together to find a suitable nesting site, but the nest itself is built by the female alone. The nest consists of a depression in the ground lined and covered by grasses. An average of five eggs are laid, after which the male will usually pair up with another female. The female incubates the eggs for about two weeks, during which the male may bring food if he has not paired up again. The chicks are born naked and blind, and are cared for by the female alone. Chicks are able to run after about two weeks, and can fly after another two weeks.


Western meadow larks forage for grain, seeds and insects on the ground, sometimes using their bills to probe for food.

Other Information

The western meadow lark's call is sort of flute-like.

The western meadow lark is the state bird of Kansas.

Scientific Classification

phylum Chordata
subphylum Vertebrata
class Aves
order Passeriformes
family Icteridae
genus & species Sturnella neglecta

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The Robinson Library >> Science >> Zoology >> Birds >> Order Passeriformes

This page was last updated on September 22, 2017.