South Dakota
Birds and Birding
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Western Meadowlark

Sturnella neglecta

Length: 10 inches Wingspan: 14 - 16 inches Seasonality: Summer
ID Keys: Both Males and Females): Yellow breast with black "V".  White outer tail feathers visible upon takeoff.  Use song to differentiate from Eastern Meadowlark.

Western Meadowlark - Sturnella neglectaThe more common of the two Meadowlark species found in the state, the other being the Eastern Meadowlark.  The songs (and normal ranges) of two species are distinctly different and provide the best means for distinguishing between the two.  The two species do occasionally interbreed where their ranges overlap, but normally stay with their kind.  They are a very common sight throughout the state, often found singing on fence posts and other perches.

Habitat: Grasslands, prairies, and farm fields.

Diet: Primarily insects in the summer, increases feeding on seeds and grain in the fall and winter.

Behavior: Generally solitary or paired during the breeding season, but can be gregarious at other times of the year.  Forages by walking along the ground, picking up insects and seeds as it goes.

Nesting: May through July

Breeding Map: Breeding bird survey map

Song: Western Meadowlark Song

Migration: Summers in the western half of the U.S. and the upper Midwest, Northern populations mouth south in the fall.

Similar Species: Eastern Meadowlark

Conservation Status: Generally stable and widespread

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Western Meadowlark

2) Cornell Lab of Ornithology - Western Meadowlark

3) Western Meadowlark

Photo Information: June 8th, 2003 -- Western Lincoln County -- Terry L. Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Western Meadowlark photos.


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Western Meadowlark - Species Range Map
South Dakota Status: Common summer breeder throughout the state.  Uncommon in winter, primarily in the far southern part of South Dakota.