Montana Flag Montana

State Bird

Western Meadowlark (common name) 
Sturnella neglecta
(scientific name)

Overview

The western meadowlark is a symbol of the American Great Plains and the West. Known and loved for its beautiful and complex song, it was formally designated the official state bird of Oregon and Wyoming in 1927, Nebraska in 1929, Montana in 1931, Kansas in 1937, and North Dakota in 1947. It is speckled brown, black, and white above, with a black "V" on its bright yellow chest. The meadowlark's colors get a little duller in winter. It has a long pointed bill that is uses to capture insects. Its diet is mostly grasshoppers and caterpillars, although it will sometimes eat seeds and berries. The western meadowlark's song is a flute-like warbling or gurgling that goes down the musical scale and can be quite complex and abrupt. Males may have up to three mates in their territory that will nest on the ground in a domed nest of dried grasses with a side entrance. They may have two clutches per year.  

Close-up

STATUS

Official

ALSO KNOWN AS

WEME (acronym)

PHYSICAL DETAILS

 

 Male

Female

 Size

Length to end of tail: 6.3-10.2 in (16-26 cm)
Wing from flexure: 16.1 in (41 cm)
Length of tail: 9 to 10 in (22 to 25 cm)

Length to end of tail: 6.3-10.2 in (16-26 cm)
Wing from flexure: 16.1 in (41 cm)
Length of tail: 9 to 10 in (22 to 25 cm)

 Weight

3.1-4.1 oz (89-115 g)

3.1-4.1 oz (89-115 g)

BEHAVIOR

Meadowlarks forage on the ground in open fields and meadows, using their bills to probe beneath the soil for food. In winter, meadowlarks often feed in flocks.

HABITAT

Open country, including pastures, meadows, agricultural fields, prairies, and desert grasslands.
Range: As far north as southern Canada and south into Mexico. Common in the central and western United States.
Migration: Summers in the western half of the U.S. and the upper Midwest. Northern populations migrate south in the fall.
Conservation Status: Least concern (LC), but declining throughout its range.

NESTING

Nesting Period: Late May to August
Size of Clutch: 3-6 eggs
Incubation Period: 13-15 days
Egg Description: White, reddish-brown
Egg Size: 1 x 3/4 in (2.5 cm x 0.63 cm)

SIMILAR SPECIES

Eastern meadowlark, common blackbird, starling

TRIVIA
  • The eastern meadowlark and western meadowlark were once considered the same species despite their very different songs (the eastern meadowlark has a simple whistle versus the operatic songs of the western meadowlark), range, and appearance. For this reason the western species was given the species name neglecta ("neglected") for having been overlooked for so long. 

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