Western Meadowlark

Sturnella neglecta

An abundant and familiar bird of open country across the western two-thirds of the continent, the Western Meadowlark is beloved for its melodic song. It is frequently seen singing atop fenceposts along roadsides in native grassland and agricultural areas.

Cool Facts

Photo taken from:
The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America by David Allen Sibley
  • The nest of the Western Meadowlark usually is partially covered by a grass roof. It may be completely open, however, or it may have a complete roof and an entrance tunnel several feet long.
  • Although the Western Meadowlark looks nearly identical to the Eastern Meadowlark, the two species hybridize only very rarely. Mixed pairs usually occur only at the edge of the range where few mates are available. Captive breeding experiments found that hybrid meadowlarks were fertile, but produced few eggs that hatched.
  • When Western and Eastern meadowlarks nest in the same area, the Western Meadowlark male will defend his territory against all male meadowlarks of either species.
  • A male Western Meadowlark usually has two mates at the same time. The females do all the incubation and brooding, and most of the feeding of the young.
  • The Western Meadowlark uses a "chase" display during pair formation, with the male chasing the female. The female usually starts the display, and she determines the speed of the chase. If a male has two mates, both females may participate in the display at one time.


Adult Description

  • Large, stocky songbird with a short tail.
  • Throat, chest, and belly yellow.
  • Black "V" across chest.
  • Back brown and streaked.
  • Outer tail feathers white.

Immature Description

Juvenile similar to adult, but with head stripes less sharp, paler overall, and with dusky spots or flecks on chest instead of black V.
Range Map
Taxonomic Hierarchy


2003 Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
     Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Icteridae
Genus: Sturnella
Species: Sturnella neglecta
Song a series of rich flutey whistles ending in gurgling whistles. Call a sharp "chupp."

Identification and Information
See Anatomy of a Bird
  • Length Range: 23-28 cm (9-11 in)
  • Weight: 113 g (4 oz)
  • Size: Medium (9 - 16 in)
  • Color Primary: Brown, Yellow
  • Underparts: Yellow with broad black V on breast and black spotted buff flanks.
  • Upperparts: Brown streaked with buff and black.
  • Back Pattern: Striped or streaked, Mottled
  • Belly Pattern: Solid
  • Breast Pattern: Solid
  • Bill Shape: Dagger, All-purpose
  • Eye Color: Brown.
  • Head Pattern: Eyeline, Capped, Striped, Streaked
  • Crown Color: Brown and buff striped.
  • Forehead Color: Brown and buff striped.
  • Nape Color: Brown and buff striped.
  • Throat Color: Yellow
  • Cere color: No Data
  • Flight Pattern: Flies low., Rapid shallow stiff wing beats followed by short glide.
  • Wingspan Range: 34-43 cm (13.5-17 in)
  • Wing Shape: Rounded-Wings
  • Tail Shape: Fan-shaped Tail
  • Tail Pattern: Barred
  • Upper Tail: Brown with black barring and white outer feathers.
  • Under Tail: Brown with black barring and white outer feathers.
  • Leg Color: Pink
  • Breeding Location: Open landscapes, Grassland with scattered trees
  • Breeding Type: Monogamous, Solitary nester
  • Breeding Population: Fairly common to common
  • Egg Color: Pale pink with brown and lavender speckles
  • Number of Eggs: 3 - 7
  • Incubation Days: 13 - 15
  • Egg Incubator: Female
  • Nest Material: Dried grass and plant stems
  • Migration: Northern birds migrate
  • Condition at Hatching: Helpless with sparse down.

Other Names

Similar Species

  • Sturnelle de l'Ouest (French)
  • Triguera de Occidente (Spanish)
  • Eastern Meadowlark extremely similar, but darker, with thicker black barring on wings and tail feathers, and mostly white mustache stripe beside the yellow throat instead of yellow up to the face. Songs and calls different, with the song of the Eastern Meadowlark being more simple and less musical.

Conservation Status

Abundant, but declining throughout range.


Sources used to Construct this Page:

Found in open country, including native grasslands, pastures, agricultural fields, roadsides, and desert grassland.
  • Lanyon, W. E. 1994. Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta). In The Birds of North America, No. 104 (A. Poole, and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.
Insects, grain, and weed seeds.
Picks food off of ground and probes beneath soil.

Adult Female

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Additional Photos & Video

Adult Female

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All photos 2008 Rick Swartzentrover - Free for non-profit use.

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