Eastern Meadowlark

Sturnella magna

The Eastern and Western Meadowlarks look nearly identical to each other, but their songs are very different. Studies show that even where the ranges of these two species overlap, they battle for territorial rights and do not hybridize. Most of the population of Eastern Meadowlarks doesn’t migrate and in the USA remains on territory from Texas to Florida and north to the Great Lakes and upper New England. Some of these birds will nest in summer as far north as southeastern Canada.

The Eastern Meadowlark has a western cousin (Western Meadowlark), and where their territories overlap, interbreeding rarely occurs. The songs of the eastern bird (to my ear) are softer and gentler than the western birds, whose calls and songs I’m more familiar with. To the eye they are very similar, but their flanks differ. The eastern bird’s side bars are more solid, while the western bird’s bars are more like dotted lines.

I met the Eastern Meadowlark in May 2020, between the city of Brownsville (Texas) and Boca Chica Beach while I was visiting the Palmito Hill battle site, where the last battle of the Civil War took place more than a month after the official end of the war.

Science has described seventeen subspecies of Eastern Meadowlarks. One population, named the Lillian’s Meadowlark, lives in west Texas, New Mexico, and eastern Arizona, and isolated from the rest of the population.

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