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Spring Melodies from the Grasslands

Updated: Apr 17, 2021

Western Meadowlark

Sturnella neglecta

Nothing says spring like the sweet melodic tunes of this “lark of the meadow”. Though often heard before seen, you can usually find these solitary singers belting beautifully atop a fence post or shrub near grasslands, meadows or other open areas. Meadowlarks are not in the Alaudidae family... that’s because they’re not larks. Their kinfolk include orioles, cowbirds and grackles. Yep, despite their “lark” designation, they belong to the blackbird (Icteridae) family.

Once considered the same species, the meadowlarks found in North America are now separated into two, western and eastern. It’s said that they’re difficult to distinguish, until they start singing. I found that the EAME (Eastern Meadowlark) song was a short and simple whistle while the WEME (Western Meadowlark) is basically spitting verses (more complex song variations ). According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, they only sing about 12 songs compared to EAMEs 50 - 100. When you have bars like the western, you don’t need to put out a bunch of mix tapes! 🎤

I find that Western Meadowlarks don’t seem overall bothered with human presence, or mine at least. The males will fly to a perch very close to you and sing. He’s either claiming territory or trying to propose... either way, I pay him in smiles.

The WEME is state bird of Kansas, North Dakota, Montana, Oregon, Nebraska and Wyoming. A group of meadowlarks are collectively known as a pod.

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