Eastern Meadowlark
Meadowlark. Photo © Brian Lasenby/Dreamstime.com

The female Eastern Meadowlark heard the clear, sweet whistles of a male meadowlark singing his springtime song from a fence post. She continued walking in the country field, probing the ground and tall grasses with her bill for insects and grubs to eat.


Suddenly the song stopped. The female saw another male meadowlark sweep into the territory. She watched as the singing male hopped down from the fence post and faced the intruder. He jumped into the air, keeping his tail up and fluttering his wings at the other bird. “Get out of my territory,” his actions said.


The other male was not discouraged. He did the same thing. They landed a few feet apart and repeated the “jump flight.” Jump and chase, jump and chase. Finally the intruder had enough, and flew away.


The male, having successfully defended his territory, flew back to the fence post and began singing boldly again. The female moved closer. She had been in this male’s territory last spring.
The male noticed her and stopped singing. He flew down, fluffed out his feathers, spread his tail, and pranced around her, showing off his yellow chest with its bold black V marking. She had the same yellow breast and black V and looked just like him. But she was interested in him.


They became a pair. Side by side, they fed on insects and searched for a suitable nest site.
The female finally found a spot for her nest. She lined a depression in the dirt with fine grasses. But she was not finished yet. She spent hours weaving together grasses and plant stems to construct a grassy dome roof over the nest. Now she was satisfied.


Sometimes meadowlarks further conceal their nests by adding a tunnel entrance, but this one didn’t. In the dense grasses and weeds of the field, the nest was already well-hidden. She had spent a week building her nest.


She laid five eggs. During the two weeks her babies grew in the eggs, she turned them often and only left the nest for short periods to feed. When the young birds hatched, they were mostly featherless with very little down, and their eyes were closed. She and her mate worked as a team, feeding the youngsters, although she did more of the feeding than he did. Less than two weeks later, the fledglings were out of the nest, but not yet on their own. They stayed with their parents for another few weeks until they were fully independent.


When autumn came, the meadowlarks joined with other migrating birds to form a large mixed flock heading south for the winter. When spring returned, the female would head back to the same territory she knew so well.

Meadowlarks are not in the lark family. They are members of the blackbird family, which includes cowbirds and orioles. The Western Meadowlark is similar in coloration and markings to the Eastern Meadowlark, but its song is a jumble of gurgling notes rather than the simple whistles of the Eastern Meadowlark.