Western Meadowlark

Sturnella neglecta

The Western Meadowlark is not a true lark, but more closely related to orioles and new world blackbirds. They range over most of North America west of the Mississippi River Valley. We usually find them in open grasslands, prairies, meadows and agricultural fields, where their songs echo in clear warbling tones that meet our ears.

The Western Meadowlark has an eastern cousin (Eastern Meadowlark), and where their territories overlap, interbreeding occurs very rarely. 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 where the darker striped, or checked markers extend over their flanks, the base color of the western bird is a creamy white, while in the eastern bird it is the same yellow color as the belly.

Science recognises two subspecies of Western Meadowlark. S. n. confluenta lives in the Pacific Northwest of North America, and S. n. neglecta occupies the rest of the range. The Latin name Sturnella roughly translates to little starling, and the neglecta name is a reference by J. Audubon about to how this bird was overlooked and dismissed as the better known Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna).

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