Western Meadowlark

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Sturnella neglecta

Western Meadowlark

The Western Meadowlark is the size of a robin but chunkier and shorter-tailed, with a flat head, long, slender bill, and a round-shouldered posture that nearly conceals its neck.

Wings are rounded and short for its size and tail is short, stiff, and spiky.

Both sexes measure about 6.3 - 10.2 inches in length, with a wingspan of 16.1 inches and weight of 89 - 115 grams.

Adults have yellow underparts with intricately patterned brown, black and buff upperparts. A black “V” crosses the bright yellow breast; it is gray in winter.

Contrasting stripes of dark brown and light buff mark the head. The outer tail feathers flash white in flight.

CALL: Most common call is a low, bell- like "pluk" or "chupp" which they use when disturbed and during courtship and territorial displays.

Females also give a soft rattle during courtship and egg laying, as well as a low intensity "tee-tee-tee" when building the nest and laying eggs.

Young birds give a simple, high-pitched location call (first few weeks after leaving the nest), which is replaced by a "weet” note once the birds are independent. Adults use the "weet" note when migrating.

SONG: Males have a complex, 2-phrase “primary” song that begins with 1 – 6 pure whistles and descends to a series of 1 – 5 gurgling warbles.

When chasing competing males or responsive females, they give a hurried, excited “flight song” of short-spaced whistles and warbles.

They develop a repertoire of up to a dozen songs, and may switch the songs they sing in response to an intruder.

Although Western Meadowlarks seldom sing more than 10 – 12 songs, their eastern counterparts exhibit a much larger repertoire of 50 – 100 song variations.

Feeds mostly on bugs, but will also feed on seeds and berries.

Live in open grasslands, prairies, meadows, and some agricultural fields ranging from sea level to 10,000 feet. They avoid wooded edges and areas with heavy shrubs.

Found across western and central North America, as far south as northern Mexico.

Nest is built by the female. It is placed in a concealed location on the ground. It is variable in form and ranges from a simple cup to a partially roofed structure with a runway extending from the nest entrance.

She lays 5 - 6 white eggs, profusely spotted with brown, rust, and lavender. She incubates the eggs for 13 – 16 days.




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