The western meadowlark, or Sturnella neglecta, is one of the most common and typical birds found in the North American Grasslands. The western meadowlark can be found in nearly all dry grassland areas west of the Great Plains. It has been recorded as being found in British Columbia, Manitoba, northern Michigan, northwestern Ohio, Missouri, central Texas, and northern Mexico. This bird is easily recognizable by its bright yellow underbelly. As they are members of the blackbird family, their coloration is especially unique, because the males of the species have little to no black feathers. About the size of a robin, the western meadowlark grows to be between 22 and 28 cm. A western meadowlarks diet consists mainly of small insects, spiders, and seeds.
This species was first "discovered" and documented by Lewis and Clark during their expedition, on June 21, 1805 around the Great Falls in Missouri. They wrote about the bird in their documentation of the expedition, and described the western meadowlark. The following is from their documentation: "There is also a species of Lark, much resembling the bird called the Old Field Lark, with a yellow breast and a black spot on the croup. The beak, too, is somewhat larger and more curved..."
Nesting and breeding for this bird begin around April. The female western meadowlark will build a nest on the ground, in an open, grassy field. Interestingly enough, after the standard nest is built (a bowl shaped depression in the grass), the female will construct a dome like structure out of grass to place over the nest, to conceal it from possible predators. Twice during a mating season, the female will lay 3-7 eggs. These eggs are usually white, with brown and/or purple spots. After about 14 days of incubation, the eggs will hatch. The newborn meadowlarks will then remain under the care of their mother for another 12 days, until they leave the nest to fend for themselves. It is not uncommon for the infant meadowlarks to leave their nest without being able to fly.
One distinguishing aspect of the western meadowlark is its unique and distinct call. It is considered by many to be energetic and cheerful, and can be heard throughout many grassland areas. In fact, the call of a western meadowlark is liked so much, that it can often be heard in films where a birdcall should be present.
Currently, the western meadowlark is the state bird of six states. Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, and Wyoming all recognize the western meadowlark as their state bird.