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Species Description

Eastern Meadowlark

Sturnella magna


Species Image

Classification

Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Icteridae

Description

A bright yellow underside and black V-shaped crescent on the breast easily identify the Meadowlark. The body appears mottled brown due to dark feathers with light edges. The head is striped brown and white horizontally, with a dark stripe through the eye. Large, stocky songbirds, 24 cm (9.5 in) long. The tail is short, and white outer-tail feathers are conspicuous during flight. The usual call of the Eastern Meadowlark is a clear, whistled see you see-yeer. It also makes a distinctive high, buzzy sound something like drzzt. and gives a rattling flight call.

Life Cycle

Breeding season lasts from late April through August. On the ground, the female weaves a cup nest of fine grasses into the surrounding grass. The nest is highly camouflaged and typically has a dome woven over it. The male performs a courtship display to the female by jumping up and down in front of her and displaying his yellow underside and black chest crescent. The female lays 4-5 eggs, which are white with brown speckles, and incubates them for 14 days. Young are altricial and are fed insect food, primarily by the female. Limited paternal care may be related to the fact that most males are polygynous and may be diverting parental care to other broods. After 12 days, the young fledge. The parents continue to feed the fledged young for 2 more weeks.

Natural History

The Eastern Meadowlark is commonly found in fields, grasslands, and pastures. This species gleans and probes vegetation for insects, insect larvae, and some fruit and vegetable matter. Hawks prey on adults, and snakes, foxes, skunks, and domestic cats and dogs prey on nests and incubating females. Singing meadowlarks are regularly observed perched on fence posts and utility poles.

Range

Eastern Meadowlark Region Map The Eastern Meadowlark can be found throughout the eastern half of the United States. Throughout Georgia this bird occurs year-round where suitable habitat is present.

Conservation Status

Numbers are slowly declining, particularly in northeastern states. This is largely attributed to loss of suitable habitat due to increasing urbanization and intensive agricultural practices, and to high mortality during severe winters.

Similar Species

No similar species occurs in Georgia. The Western Meadowlark, which generally prefers somewhat drier habitats and ranges from parts of western Alabama westward to California, is quite similar in plumage. The two species are best distinguished by voice. The Western Meadowlark sings a variable series of bubbling, flute-like notes which speed up toward the end. It also makes a distinctive low, throaty, explosive chuck and a rattling flight call.