|Range of S. neglecta Breeding range Year-round range Wintering range|
The western meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta) is a medium-sized icterid bird, about 8.5 in (22 cm) in length. It nests on the ground in open grasslands across western and central North America. It feeds mostly on insects, but will also feed on seeds and berries. The western meadowlark has distinctive calls described as watery or flute-like, which distinguish it from the closely-related eastern meadowlark.
Western meadowlark adults have yellow underparts with a black "V" on the breast and white flanks streaked with black. Their upper parts are mostly brown, but also have black streaks. These birds have long, pointed bills and their heads are striped with light brown and black bands.
Habitat and distribution
The breeding habitats of western meadowlarks are grasslands, prairies, pastures, and abandoned fields, all of which may be found across western and central North America, as far south as northern Mexico. In regions where their range overlaps with the eastern species, these birds prefer thinner, drier vegetation; the two type of birds generally do not interbreed but do defend territory against one another. Their nests are situated on the ground, and are covered with a roof woven from grass. There may be more than one nesting female in a male's territory. Nests are sometimes destroyed by mowing operations with eggs and young in them.
Western meadowlarks are permanent residents throughout much of their range. Northern birds may migrate to the southern parts of their range; some birds also move east in the southern United States.
These birds forage on the ground or in low to semi-low vegetation. They sometimes search for food by probing with their bills. They mainly eat insects, although they will consume seeds and berries. In winter, these birds often feed in flocks.
These birds have a flute-like warbled song. These calls contrast with the simple, whistled call of the eastern meadowlark.
History with eastern meadowlark
Western meadowlarks will occasionally interbreed with eastern meadowlarks where their ranges overlap; however, resulting young appear to have low fertility.
These two species were considered to be the same species for some time; the western species, having been overlooked for some time, was given the species name neglecta.
The western meadowlark is the state bird of six states; being Montana, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, and Wyoming. The northern cardinal, which represents seven states, is the only bird to hold the status of state bird in more states.
- BirdLife International (2012). "Sturnella neglecta". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- Jaramillo, Alvaro; Peter Burke (1999). New World Blackbirds: The Icterids. London: Christopher Helm. p. 305. ISBN 0-7136-4333-1.
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