Living Bird Magazine
Eastern MeadowlarkSturnella magna
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Icteridae
The sweet, lazy whistles of Eastern Meadowlarks waft over summer grasslands and farms in eastern North America. The birds themselves sing from fenceposts and telephone lines or stalk through the grasses, probing the ground for insects with their long, sharp bills. On the ground, their brown-and-black dappled upperparts camouflage the birds among dirt clods and dry grasses. But up on perches, they reveal bright-yellow underparts and a striking black chevron across the chest.More ID Info
Find This Bird
During breeding season Eastern Meadowlarks sing often and fairly late in the day, so listen for their pretty, flutelike songs. Also look for bright yellow-breasted males with dashing black V’s across their chest as they show off from posts or poles. In winter, they may be gathered up in flocks of up to 200 meadowlarks foraging in fields for leftover seeds and grains.
- Pradero Oriental (Spanish)
- Sturnelle des prés (French)
This species often comes to backyards if food is offered. Find out more about what this bird likes to eat and what feeder is best by using the Project FeederWatch Common Feeder Birds bird list.
- Cool Facts
- The Eastern Meadowlark is not in the lark family (Alaudidae)—it’s a member of the blackbird family (Icteridae), which also includes cowbirds and orioles.
- A male Eastern Meadowlark typically has two mates at a time, rarely three.
- Taxonomists recognize up to 17 subspecies of Eastern Meadowlark, including one isolated population in the Southwest known as the Lillian’s Meadowlark, which lives well within the range of the Western Meadowlark.
- Although Eastern and Western Meadowlarks are nearly identical, the two species hybridize only very rarely. Mixed pairs usually occur only at the edge of the range where few mates are available.
- Where Eastern and Western meadowlark ranges overlap in the central U.S., the two species refuse to share territories. Their songs sound totally different to each other, like a foreign language, so singing doesn’t always do the job of communicating territorial boundaries. Instead, the two species are likely to fight for territorial supremacy.
- An Eastern Meadowlark male can sing several different variations of its song. In New York, the songs from one male were analyzed using spectrograms; the bird sang more than 100 different patterns of song.
- The oldest known wild Eastern Meadowlark was at least 8 years, 8 months old. It was banded in Pennsylvania in 1926, and shot in North Carolina in 1935.