Species At Risk

Eastern Meadowlark

(Sturnella magna)

Threatened

Eastern Meadowlark

Description

The Eastern Meadowlark is a medium-sized, migratory songbird (about 22 to 28 centimetres long) with a bright yellow throat and belly, a black "V" on its breast and white flanks with black streaks. Their backs are mainly brown with black streaks. They have pinkish legs, a long, pointed bill and a light brown and black striped head.

The Eastern Meadowlark’s song is composed of a series of two to eight clear, flutelike whistles, often slurred together and descending in pitch.

Range

In Ontario, the Eastern Meadowlark is primarily found south of the Canadian Shield but it also inhabits the Lake Nipissing, Timiskaming and Lake of the Woods areas.

Habitat

Eastern Meadowlarks breed primarily in moderately tall grasslands, such as pastures and hayfields, but are also found in alfalfa fields, weedy borders of croplands, roadsides, orchards, airports, shrubby overgrown fields, or other open areas. Small trees, shrubs or fence posts are used as elevated song perches.

Threats

This species increased when forests were cleared in eastern North America. However, as with many grassland birds, Eastern Meadowlark numbers are shrinking due to changes in land use and the loss of suitable habitat that has resulted from development, changes in farming practices, over-grazing of pasturelands by livestock, grassland fragmentation, reforestation and the use of pesticides.

Eastern Meadowlarks are also subject to predators, including foxes, domestic cats and dogs, coyotes, snakes, skunks, raccoons and other small mammals.

In Ontario, the number of Eastern Meadowlarks has decreased by almost 65 per cent during the past 40 years.

Protection

The Eastern Meadowlark receives species protection under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act. This legislation also protects Eastern Meadowlark habitat from damage and destruction, where it is known to occur.

What You Can Do to Help the Eastern Meadowlark

  • The Ministry of Natural Resources tracks species at risk such as the Eastern Meadowlark. You can use a handy online form to report your sightings to the Natural Heritage Information Centre. Photographs with specific locations or mapping coordinates are always helpful. nhic.mnr.gov.on.ca
  • Report any illegal activity related to plants and wildlife to 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667).
  • Volunteer with your local nature club or provincial park to participate in surveys or stewardship work focused on species at risk.
  • Private land owners have a very important role to play in species recovery. You may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats.
  • As with all wildlife, don’t disturb or harass the birds or nesting sites. Be respectful and observe from a distance.
  • The Canada-Ontario Farm Stewardship Program is available to eligible farmers to encourage greater protection and conservation of habitat for species at risk. Find more information at www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/environment/efp/efp.htm.

Did you know?

The Eastern Meadowlark is not actually a lark, but a member of the same family as blackbirds and orioles.

Did you know?

Eastern Meadowlarks can be beneficial in hayfields since they eat large numbers of insects that could otherwise be harmful to crops.

Did you know?

This bird forages on the ground or in low vegetation, probing with its bill and mainly eating insects, but also seeds and berries.

Did you know?

Eastern Meadowlarks can nest from early May to mid-August, in nests that are built on the ground and well-camouflaged with a roof woven from grasses.


The Endangered Species Act


Contact your local ministry office


Often the best source of local information on species at risk is your nearest ministry office. Call with your questions or concerns.