The meadowlark is a familiar sight around the farmlands of the Midwest.
A bird of open grassland habitats such as hayfields or prairies, meadowlarks often perch prominently on top of fence posts.
A meadowlark has a bold, black V-shaped marking on its yellow breast. The birds are plump and stocky, with long pointy beaks and short tails. Males and females look alike. In flight, meadowlarks resemble quail, alternating quick flapping with sailing on set wings.
Meadowlarks are indeed found in meadows, but they are not larks. The meadowlark actually belongs to the blackbird family.
In meadowlark habitats, the meadowlark’s whistle seems ever present, as much a part of grasslands as the grass. Meadowlarks sometimes sing even in winter, though they are most vocal during the warmer months of the nesting season. There are two kinds of meadowlarks: eastern and western, but you may not know it by looking at them. The two species are most easily separated by their different songs. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, explorer Meriwether Lewis was the first to note the subtle differences between the two birds. And John James Audubon gave the Western meadowlark its scientific name, sturnella (starling-like) neglecta.
Hear their different songs in our media gallery below.
Meadowlarks nest on the ground in thick grassy areas. They weave fine grasses into a nest with a domed roof and side entrance. Meadowlarks consume lots of insects such as grasshoppers. In winter, meadowlarks form small flocks and eat seeds and grain.
Discover more about eastern and western meadowlarks with the MDC field guide.
Setting out to go bird watching this spring? Find out how to ID bird features with this helpful guide.