Western Meadowlark

North Dakota State Bird

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Western meadowlark

Western meadowlark; photo by Dave Soldano on Flickr (noncommercial use permitted with attribution / no derivative works).

Western Meadowlark

The western meadowlark (Sturnella Neglecta) was designated official state bird of North Dakota in 1947. The western meadowlark is a familiar songbird of open country across the western two-thirds of the continent (from Wisconsin to Texas and west to the Pacific). Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Oregon, and Wyoming also recognize the western meadowlark as state bird.

In the same family as blackbirds and orioles, adults are 8-11 inches long and have a black and white striped head; a long, pointed bill; yellow cheeks; bright yellow throat; and a distinctive black "V" on breast. The western meadowlark is often seen perched on fence-posts in grasslands and agricultural areas singing its distinct 7-10 note melody (their flute-like song usually ends with 3 descending notes).

Western meadowlarks forage on the ground and beneath the soil for insects, grain and weed seeds (it's estimated that at least 65-70% of their diet consists of beetles, cutworms, caterpillars, grasshoppers, spiders, sow bugs, and snails). They also nest on the ground - constructing a cup of dried grasses and bark woven into the surrounding vegetation. This nest may be open or have a partial or full grass roof, and sometimes a grass entry tunnel several feet long.

Western meadowlark predators include hawks, crows, skunks, coyotes, raccoons, and weasels. Western meadowlarks are still abundant but declining throughout their range; they are a protected non-game species.

North Dakota

Images

Western meadowlark singing; photo © Richard Mousel / Critterzone: Animal Pictures, Nature Stock Photography (all rights reserved; used by permission).

Western meadowlark singing

Western meadowlark singing; photo © Andrew Williams / Critterzone: Animal Pictures, Nature Stock Photography (all rights reserved; used by permission).

Western meadowlark singing

Videos

Western Meadowlark