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Kansas State Bird

Western MeadowlarkWestern Meadowlark (blackbird): Kansas State Bird

(Sturnella neglecta)

Adopted in 1937.

The western meadowlark, (Sturnella neglecta,) became the state bird of Kansas after a vote by over 121,000 school children. The election was coordinated by Madelaine Aaron, who was then the secretary of the Kansas Audubon Society. 43,895 votes were cast for the Western Meadowlark and the second and third place finishers were the Bobwhite and the Cardinal. The Kansas Legislature approved the western meadowlark, (Sturnella neglecta,) as the official state bird of Kansas in 1937.

Kansas State Bird: Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark (blackbird): Kansas State BirdThe Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta) is a medium-sized icterid bird, about 8.5 in (22 cm) long. It nests on the ground in open country in western and central North America grassland. It feeds mostly on insects, but also seeds and berries. It has distinctive calls described as watery or flute-like, which distinguish it from the closely related Eastern Meadowlark.

The meadowlark's diet is mostly insects like caterpillars and grasshoppers, although it will sometimes eat seeds. The western meadowlark lives in meadows, plains, prairies and other open grasslands.

The Eastern Meadowlark is a medium-sized blackbird, very similar to the Western Meadowlark. Where their ranges overlap, they are best separated by voice. Western Meadowlark has yellow throat extending slightly farther into face than Eastern. Male Dickcissel is much smaller with a conical bill and lacks white in the tail.

Characteristics of the Western Meadowlark

  • Length: 8.5 inches
  • Sharply-pointed bill
  • Buff and brown head stripes
  • Yellow underparts with black "v" on breast
  • White flanks with black streaks
  • Brown upperparts with black streaks
  • Brown tail with white outer tail feathers
  • Juvenile and winter plumages somewhat duller
  • Frequents open habitats

The western meadowlark is about nine inches long. It has a brown and black back and wings and a bright yellow chest with a black V on it. The meadowlark's colors may be a little duller in winter. It has a long pointed bill. The western meadowlark is very similar to the eastern meadowlark. The western meadowlark's yellow color extends a little further onto its cheek. The songs of the two meadowlarks are the easiest way to tell them apart. The song of the western meadowlark is a series of flute-like gurgling notes that go down the scale. The eastern meadowlark's call is a simpler series of whistles.

The Western's Meadowlarks song is complex, garbled and abrupt. Males commonly use fence posts as perches while singing. They will sing to stake out a breeding territory which averages 7 acres in size but may vary from 3 to 15 acres. The males will have more than one mate. Up to three females may nest within its territory.

Meadowlarks are ground nesters. They weave dried grasses into a bowl shape, typically within a larger grass clump for shelter and camouflage. An average of 5 eggs are laid and they may have two clutches per year. The eggs are white with brown and lavender spots concentrated at the wider end. Incubation takes two weeks and the young are full grown 6 weeks after hatching. The young have some black spots on their breast but do not develop the distinctive black "V" until the fall molt . Nesting and brood-rearing chores are done primarily by the female, although the male may help feed the young.

The majority of their food during the growing season is insects, spiders and other small invertebrates. Some seeds are eaten also, and that becomes the bulk of their food in the winter. During winter meadowlarks will form into flocks of up to a few hundred individuals which are often seen foraging in fields and pastures.

Kansas Statute

Kansas Statutes, Chapter 73, Article 9, Section 73-901.
Chapter 73.--SOLDIERS, SAILORS AND PATRIOTIC EMBLEMS.
Article 9.--STATE BIRD.

73-901. Designation. The bird known as the western meadow lark, Sturnella-Neglecta (Audubon), as preferred by a vote of Kansas school children, is hereby designated and declared to be the official bird of the state of Kansas.
History: L. 1937, ch. 319, 1; June 30.

Taxonomic Hierarchy of the Western Meadowlark

KingdomAnimalia -- animals
Phylum Chordata -- chordates
Subphylum Vertebrata -- vertebrates
Class Aves -- birds
Order Passeriformes -- perching birds
Family Fringillidae -- buntings, finches, grosbeaks, old world finches, sparrows
Genus Sturnella Vieillot, 1816 -- meadowlarks
Species Sturnella neglecta Audubon, 1844 -- Pradero occidental, western meadowlark
Official State Birds
US map : Birds & Flowers
State Bird:  Bird selected (as by the legislature) as an emblem of a state of the United States.

NOTE: Many states have more than one official bird, or have designate state birds more specifically.