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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Eastern Meadowlark -- Sturnella magna


RANGE: Breeds from northern Minnesota and southern Ontario across to southern New Brunswick, south through the Eastern United States to Texas, the Gulf Coast, Central America, and Florida, and west to southwestern South Dakota, central Nebraska and central Arizona. Winters from central Arizona, Kansas, central Wisconsin, New England, and Nova Scotia south throughout the breeding range, although casually farther north.

STATUS: Common, although there are widespread declines in the Eastern States.

HABITAT: Prefers pastures, but also occurs in other grass-dominated habitats such as hayfields, grassy meadows, tallgrass prairies, open fields of corn, alfalfa, and clover, and weedy orchards. Prefers moist meadows and lowlands at the western edge of its range, where distribution overlaps that of the western meadowlark.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Open grasslands with elevated singing perches such as fences, poles, or lone trees.

NEST: Builds nest on the ground in a natural depression or scrape, well concealed by a canopy of vegetation bent over the nest, preferably in cover 10 to 20 inches high.

FOOD: Gleans food from the ground and low vegetation. During summer, mainly eats insects; in winter, primarily eats seeds of weeds and grasses, and waste grain, except in southerly states where insects are still available.

REFERENCES: Bent 1958, Johnsgard 1979, Lanyon 1957, Roseberry and Klimstra 1970, Tate and Tate 1982.


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