Red-breasted Meadowlark Leistes militaris

  • © Michel Giraud-Audine

The two smaller species of meadowlarks, including the Red-breasted, used to be put in their own genus, Leistes. These two, the other being the White-browed (S. superciliaris), are indeed sister species, but they fit right in with the rest of the meadowlarks even though their body shape is somewhat different. The Leistes subgroup is small, with relatively short and finch-like bills and they have particularly short tails. As is typical of most South American meadowlarks, the underparts are red not yellow as in the northern meadowlarks. Male Red-breasted Blackbirds are blackish on the head and upperparts, extending to the flanks and vent. When fresh, the wing feathers are finely edged pale, and the back is also finely tipped giving it a scaly appearance. This is short-lived and soon enough these pale edges wear away revealing entirely blackish plumage save for the incredibly bright red throat and breast. Females are duller red below, and brown and streaky above. Males sing their song accompanied by a flight display, in this display they fly straight up and then parachute down with wings and tail spread. At this point they reveal a small red patch at the bend of the wing, and their short tail and broad wings give them a rather bat-like appearance. The distribution of this open country species is becoming larger as previously forested areas are opened up through agriculture.

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© Paul A. Schwartz

  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding

Recommended Citation

Red-breasted Meadowlark (Leistes militaris), In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: