Western Meadowlark

Sturnella neglecta

By Jim Gain

Learn 100 Common Valley Birds is a photo blog series highlighting the 100 most common Valley bird species.

Post #13 in the Learn 100 Common Valley Birds series. (Species 18/100.)


The buoyant, flutelike melody of the Western Meadowlark ringing out across a field can brighten anyone’s day. The Western Meadowlark is a Common Year-round Resident throughout the open country of the San Joaquin Valley. The Western Meadowlark is not a lark (Family Alaudidae) but is related instead to New World blackbirds and troupials (Family Icteridae).


This colorful member of the blackbird family flashes a vibrant yellow breast crossed by a distinctive, black, V-shaped band.


The Western Meadowlark is one of our most abundant and widely distributed grassland birds. It inhabits most open country of both natural and planted grasslands of the valley floor.


John James Audubon gave the Western Meadowlark its scientific name, Sturnella (starling-like) neglecta, claiming that most explorers and settlers who ventured west of the Mississippi after Lewis and Clark had overlooked this common bird.


Although Western Meadowlarks are numerous, their breeding populations declined approximately 0.9% per year between 1966 and 2019, resulting in a cumulative decline of about 37%, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey.

The graph below shows the Central Valley population trends between 2007 and 2021. The larger the red circle, the greater the decline in numbers.

Declines may be due, in part, to conversion of grassland breeding and wintering habitat for housing and agricultural uses. Other factors affecting Western Meadowlark populations may include pesticides, habitat degradation due to invasive plant species, and fire suppression that alters native grasslands. (From All About Birds.com)

Previous posts from the Learn 100 Common Valley Birds series,

One thought on “Western Meadowlark”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.