Western Meadowlark

Bird of the Month: Western Meadowlark

By Hugh Jennings

PC: Mick Thompson (Western Meadowlark)

PC: Mick Thompson (Western Meadowlark)

Scientific Name: Sternella neglecta

Length 9.5 in

AOU Band code WEME

The Western Meadowlark (WEME) is 9-1/2" long. The WEME has a yellow breast and belly with a black V-shaped breast band. Upper parts are dark brown with dusky edges. When the bird is flushed it shows a conspicuous patch of white on each side of a short tail and flies with several rapid wingbeats alternating with short glides. When walking it flicks its tail open and shut. The WEME plumage closely parallels the Eastern Meadowlark (EAME) and it is almost impossible to tell them apart except by voice.
The WEME has a flute-like song, accelerating at the end. The call is a low, throaty chuck. The EAME has a whistled song see-you, see-yeer. and a raspy, dzzrt call. WEMEs are common in grassy fields, meadows, cultivated fields and pastures.

Their diet includes spiders, sowbugs, snails, grass and forb seeds.  (For those of you, like me, that don’t know what a forb is: A herbaceous plant other than a grass, especially, one growing in a field or meadow.)

It builds its nest in a natural or scraped depression of coarse grass, lined with finer grass and hair. The nest has a domed canopy of grass, bark and forbs interwoven with surrounding vegetation with an opening on one side. There are 3-7 white eggs marked with browns and purples. Incubation is 13-15 days and fledging in 12 days.