Wildlife - Species

Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna)

Eastern Meadowlark, by John Ennis
Photo by John Ennis


The Eastern meadowlark is a medium-sized songbird measuring 7-10 inches in length. Females are slightly smaller than males, but otherwise the sexes look similar. It has a long, slender bill and rather long legs. The back is brownish with a series of black streaks and bars. The breast is a bright yellow with a distinctive black bib on adults. There is a conspicuous white streak on each outer edge of the tail that flashes when in flight. Walking, the meadowlark flicks its tail open and shut flashing the white streaks on the tail. The Eastern meadowlark is actually not in the lark family, but rather is in the blackbird family.


Two-five or more clear, flutelike whistles descending in pitch at the end. Meadowlarks typically sing from an exposed perch, but can sing while flying as well. See Bird-Sounds.net for recordings of 602 species of bird calls in the U.S. and Canada. There are also a number of apps available that will identify bird sounds.

Habitat and Food

Eastern meadowlarks evolved in native grasslands and prairies, but since these habitats are scarce in the East now, they utilize pastures, hayfields, old fields and other grassy areas. Could also be seen in pine and oak savannah type areas. Annual food habits would be about three- quarters insects, especially crickets and grasshoppers in summer, and weed seeds and waste grains where available in colder months. Meadowlarks will feed in flocks in the winter.


Eastern meadowlarks are year-round residents and breed in South Carolina as well as most of the East, although birds in the upper northeastern states will migrate south to winter. They nest on the ground in grassy cover, the female often selecting a slight depression in the ground on which to build the nest. A meadowlark nest will often have a thatchy roof of woven grasses and be 2-3 inches in depth. They lay 2-7 eggs in a clutch and can have 2 broods during the breeding season. An Eastern meadowlark breeding male will generally have 2 mates simultaneously.


Amy Tegeler – Bird Conservation Coordinator

P.O. Box 23205
Columbia, SC 29224
Phone: (803) 521-2119

E-mail: TegelerA@dnr.sc.gov