Western Meadowlark Sturnella neglecta


The Scientific name for this widespread western North American species says it all. This species was neglected as its appearance is so similar to that of the Eastern Meadowlark (S. magna) that only fine detailed looks at specific feathers, or subtle feather patterns (extent of yellow on cheek) are useful for separating the two species. But vocally, the two are quite different. The Western Meadowlark gives a melodious, flute-like song, much more complex and lower pitched than that of the Eastern Meadowlark. It also has a distinctive “chuck” call note not heard from the Eastern Meadowlark. The study of these two species both in the lab and field clarified many elements of the understanding of the role of learned song in species identification, that calls are often innate or hardwired not learned, and that hybridization can occur in species like these but that the hybrids may have reduced fitness compared to the parental species. The two are also very similar ecologically, but where they overlap as in the Midwest, the Western takes drier more upland grassland habitats, and the Eastern remains in the moister grasslands near river bottoms. The two overlap broadly, but only the Western Meadowlark is found in the mountains and west of the continent where it can be a common and often heard component of any open area, from native grassland to ranchland.

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© Robert C. Stein

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

Recommended Citation

Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta), In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: https://neotropical.birds.cornell.edu/Species-Account/nb/species/wesmea