Scientific NameSturnella neglecta (named by John James Audubon: “sturnella,” meaning “starling-like,” and “neglecta,” referring to his belief that settlers had overlooked this interesting bird)

Sketch by Hazel Stark
Sketch by Hazel Stark

Family:  Icteridae

Order: Passeriformes

Description: Robin-sized bird with long, slender bill, rounded posture that mostly hides the neck, a black “v” that crosses the chest, yellow underparts, complex brown/black/gray patterned head and back, and white tail feathers. They are more easily heard than seen.

Habitat: Wide open spaces of low to medium-height grasses up to 10,000 feet in elevation.

Diet: Insects and herbaceous plant seeds. During hard winters, they have been seen feeding on carcasses. “Gaping,” a feeding behavior, allows them to access usually hard to reach foods by inserting their bills into the substrate of choice then forcing their bills open to make a hole through which they can access food more easily.

Other Natural History Notes: Western Meadowlarks build their nests on the ground and generally include a mostly weatherproof roof. They are solitary birds during most of the year, but will forage in small groups during the winter. When flushed, they fly low with short quail-like wing-beats. Males sing loudly from high points during spring and summer.

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