Differences between Eastern Meadowlark, Sturnella magna, and Western Meadowlark, S. neglecta.

All pictures below were taken by Kevin J. McGowan of specimens from the Ornithology Collections at the Cornell University Museum of Vertebrates.

The most obvious characters that distinguishes the two species are vocal. The songs are quite different, as are the call notes. Visual differences are more subtle, but they do exist. One mark is the yellow malar region of a Western Meadowlark, as opposed to white in Eastern. The yellow of the throat extends higher up onto the face in the Western.

This is an Eastern. Note how the area behind the base of the lower mandible is white.

This is a Western. The same area on this bird is yellow.


There is, however, variation in the expression of this character. The following pictures give a hint of the variability.


The other end of the birds is also diagnostic, namely the tail feathers.

These are tail feathers from Eastern Meadowlarks. Note how dark the center portions of the tail feathers are and how thick the bars are.


These are tail feathers from Western Meadowlarks. Note that a good deal of variation exists, but that the centers are much lighter than in Easterns.

Western Meadowlarks tend to be paler than Easterns. Much of this appearance seems to be the result of the thinner lines of black on the folded wing feathers, similar to the differences in the tail feathers.

These three are Eastern Meadowlarks.

These five are Western Meadowlarks.

The different subspecies of the two species can confuse identification issues even more, but these characters should work to distinguish the meadowlarks in New York state.


Just for fun, and speaking of variation, here is a photo of a somewhat troubled Eastern Meadowlark collected in Brewster Co., TX in 1933 (CU17391).


Photos Cornell University.

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Revised: November 02, 2001.