Western Meadowlarks The Oregon State Bird

Western Meadowlark Photo by Doug Greenberg

Western Meadowlark Photo by Doug Greenberg

Identifying Them:

Western Meadowlarks are medium-sized birds, with a height of about 22 centimeters (6-10 inches long). Adult Western Meadowlarks have yellow bellies, with black ”v”s on their breasts.


These birds can be found year-round in areas of Central, Western and Southwestern America and will breed (during the summer) in most of North America. Western Meadowlarks will most likely be found in open grasslands, agricultural fields, meadows and prairies.


In the winter, flocks will forage for seeds on the near-bare ground in open fields, using their long beaks to probe in the ground for grain, weed seeds and insects. In the spring time, males may compete over territories and perform a “jump flight,” which is where a male flies straight up into the air several feet above the ground and flap their wings over their back with their legs dangling. They will defend their territories by chasing away intruders in “pursuit flights” that may take a few minutes.

Nesting and Nestlings:

Western Meadowlarks nest upon the ground in small hollows. Nests are typically under vegetation or densely vegetated bushes so it can be very difficult to find them. Females will build their nests, which are built by scraping in the grass to form a cup shape surrounded by grass. The nest is 7–8 inches long with a cup that is 4–5 inches across and 2–3 inches deep. It usually takes the female about a week to build this season’s first nest.

Western Meadowlarks are polygamists, so males mostly have two female mates. Females lay about 4 to 6 eggs per clutch and have about 2 clutches per season. She incubates her eggs for about two weeks (13-14 days). Once they hatch, she feeds and takes care of the nestlings with little to no help from the male. About 12 days after hatching, the nestlings leave the nests but don’t become fledglings just yet instead hey are just fast runners.


In the summer time, Western Meadowlarks dig into the dirt with their beaks looking for insects like beetles, worms and ants, but in the fall, winter and early spring, they mostly just forage for grains and seeds. Though the diet of insects, grains and seeds isn’t all they eat, sometimes, Western Meadowlarks will actually eat the eggs of other grassland birds. During extreme winters, they may feed off of carcasses like roadkill.


About faithelise

I love learning about species of birds and want to be an Ornathologist. Writing about birds is my passion and I love every part of it!
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