Thursday, January 21, 2010


Meadowlarks in the winter? I've lived in NW Missouri my entire life and until last winter had never spotted an Eastern or Western Meadowlark in the coldest months of winter. Once again this winter they are here, foraging in the fields for whatever food they can find.

Eastern and Western Meadowlarks (Sturnella magna & Sturnella neglecta) are found throughout the Eastern portion of the United States. All guides that I consulted said they are present in Missouri year-around, which is evident by their presence in January, scavenging in the snow. It does not say much for my observation skills that I just now this past year figured out that they were here at other times besides spring and summer. The Eastern Meadowlark is very closely related to the Western Meadowlark. The only accurate way to distinguish them from one another is by song and location. Although they will occasionally interbreed and create hybrids where their populations cross. There are up to 17 subspecies of Eastern Meadowlark that are recognized. I sent these images to a bird expert and even he is having some difficulty in accurately telling me which species they are. He feels pretty certain they are of the Western variety.

In the spring these birds become very vocal and their call herald's in the spring. There is something so very beautiful about their song. Eastern Meadowlark Vocals and Western Meadowlark Vocals Within a mile from our farm they sit on the phone wires looking down over their territory, very much like sentries overseeing their vast kingdom.

 Despite their common name of Meadowlark, they are not related to Larks at all, in fact they are more closely related to Orioles and Blackbirds. They can be a medium to large sized bird measuring up to 9 or 10 inches with a 17 inch wingspan. They have a distinctive yellow patch on their chest with a black "V" shaped marking. They are associated with open grasslands, roadsides, agricultural areas, and prairies. They are ground foragers and feed on weed seeds, insects and other grains found within their habitat. In much of their range they are declining in population, most likely this if from habitat loss. In our area they are plentiful and we are blessed to see them frequently.


  1. We used to get meadowlarks all the time but somehow we are out of their route now. Same habitat but I rarely see them. During field work I see them regularly so I know they are out there still. Strange...

    Cool to see them foraging in the snow! Thanks.

  2. That is strange that you no longer see them anymore. We have them in huge supply around here. I usually notice them in the spring when they are sitting along the fences and wires on our highway. This was the first time I've seen them in the snowy, cold days of winter. It was really exciting to see so many together.

  3. I am originally from Kansas so I am very familiar with meadowlarks. I have lived just north of Springfield for 8 years and was surprised to find several of these birds under my bird feeder this winter! Now I throw a little cracked corn out for them in addition to the wild bird mix in the feeders.