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Contact information
For information on Wisconsin's rare vertebrate animals, contact:
Rich Staffen
Conservation Biologist
For information on Wisconsin's rare invertebrates, contact:
Jay Watson
Conservation Biologist

Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta)



Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta), a Special Concern species, is medium-sized bird that is a chunkier equivalent to a robin. It is distinguishable by its bright yellow throat and breast marked by a black "V". The rest of the body is intricately patterned with a multitude of brown, black spots and stripes. The species is typically found in open landscapes like pastures and hay fields, grasslands, prairies and meadows where there is a mix of short to medium-high grasses. During the breeding season, nests are constructed by the females from weaving grass and shrub stems in a 7-8 inch wide depression in the soil. Five to six eggs are laid that are white with brown, rust and lavender spots. Incubation lasts 13-16 days. The Western Meadowlark has suffered from significant population decline over the past three decades, likely due to loss of habitat caused by fragmentation, land use conversion and succession from grasslands to brush or forests. The recommended avoidance period is April 25 - July 30.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - both state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where occurrences of this species meet NHI data standards and is not meant as a comprehensive map of all observations.

Note: Species recently added to the NHI Working List may temporarily have blank occurrence maps.

Documented locations of Sturnella neglecta in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.
Summary Information
State StatusSC/M
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS2B
Global RankG5
Tracked by NHIY

Species guidance

A guidance document is not available at this time. However, the bird calendar [PDF] contains dates for avoiding impacts to this and other rare Wisconsin birds when planning management activities.



Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark.

Photo © John and Karen Hollingsworth.

Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark

Photo © Gary Kramer.

Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark

Photo © Gary Kramer.

Western Meadowlark

The Western Meadowlark is among the many declining grassland species in Wisconsin.

Photo © John and Karen Hollingsworth.

Wildlife Action Plan

Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan graphic

Natural community (habitat) associations

The table below lists the natural communities that are associated with Western Meadowlark. Only natural communities for which Western Meadowlark is "high" (score=3) or "moderate" (score=2) associated are shown. See the key to association scores for complete definitions. Please see the Wildlife Action Plan to learn how this information was developed.

Ecological landscape associations

The table below lists the ecological landscape association scores for Western Meadowlark. The scores correspond to the map (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None). For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

This map shows the probability of Western Meadowlark occurring in each of Wisconsin's Ecological Landscapes.  Actual scores can be found in the table to the left.

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Landscape-Community combinations of highest ecological priority*

Ecological priorities are the combinations of natural communities and ecological landscapes that provide Wisconsin's best opportunities to conserve important habitats for a given Species of Greatest Conservation Need. The 10 highest scoring combinations are considered ecological priorities and are listed below. More than 10 combinations are listed if multiple combinations tied for 10th place. For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

* Ecological priority score is a relative measure that is not meant for comparison between species. This score does not consider socio-economical factors that may dictate protection and/or management priorities differently than those determined solely by ecological analysis. Further, a low ecological priority score does not imply that management or preservation should not occur on a site if there are important reasons for doing so locally.

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Issues/threats and conservation actions

Conservation actions respond to issues or threats, which adversely affect species of greatest conservation need (SGCN) or their habitats. Besides actions such as restoring wetlands or planting resilient tree species in northern communities, research, surveys and monitoring are also among conservation actions described in the WWAP because lack of information can threaten our ability to successfully preserve and care for natural resources.

Threats/issues and conservations actions for rare animals

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Last revised: Thursday, October 08, 2020