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Western Meadowlark

The western meadowlark is a prairie bird often referred to as “the prairie musician” because of the songs they sing in the prairies. The western meadowlark is the state bird of Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon and Wyoming.

The western meadowlark has a yellow chest, which makes it readily recognizable. Western meadowlark males and females have similar color patterns. This is unusual for birds, males and females usually have different coloring and/or pattern of feathers.

Males commonly use fence posts as perches while they sing. During the spring male western meadowlarks perch in one place for several hours each day singing and claiming his territory. They use the songs they sing as a weapon of defense. The songs let other western meadowlarks know to not enter their territory. Their breeding territory averages 2.8 hectares (7 acres) but may vary from 1.2 to 6 hectares (3 to 14.8 acres).

Western meadowlarks build their nests on the prairie floor. They build them in a hoof print or another small depression in the ground that the female makes by digging with her bill. They line the nest with fine grasses and pull other adjacent grasses over the nest to form a roof. The females make hundreds of trips gathering other grasses to assemble the roof. When the nest is complete it is nearly waterproof.

Western meadowlarks lay an average of five eggs, and they may have two clutches per year. The eggs are white with brown and lavender spots.

Meadowlarks are ground feeders. In the spring and summer they feed mostly on insects, spiders and some seeds. They feed on seeds during the winter. During the winter, western meadowlarks form into flocks of up to a few hundred birds. The flocks can be found foraging in the prairie.