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Every week there are new marvels to look for in the outdoors, and Discover Nature highlights these attractions. The Missouri Department of Conservation’s Josh Hartwig brings us the stories of river otters, luna moths, red buds, and other actors as they take center stage in nature’s theater.You can hear Discover Nature, Mondays at 7:42 a.m. and 5:18 p.m.

Discover Nature: Missouri's Meadowlarks

Missouri Department of Conservation
Eastern Meadowlark

Discover nature this week with Missouri's Meadowlarks.

The meadowlark is a familiar sight throughout the farmlands of the Midwest, most often found living its best life in open grassland habitats such as hayfields or prairies. You also might catch one perched prominently on top of a fence post. And though they are indeed found in meadows, they are not larks. The meadowlark belongs to the blackbird family.

A meadowlark has a bold, black V-shaped marking on its yellow chest. The birds are plump and stocky, with long pointy beaks and short tails. Males and females look alike, and in flight, meadowlarks resemble quail, alternating quick flapping with sailing on set wings.

In meadowlark habitats, its whistle seems ever present -- as much a part of grasslands as the grass. They sometimes sing even in winter, though they are most vocal during the warmer months of the nesting season.

There are two kinds of meadowlarks: eastern and western (but you wouldn’t know it by looking at them). The two species are most easily separated by their different songs. Male meadowlarks defend their nesting territory by singing, and nests are built by the female.

Meadowlarks nest on the ground in thick grassy areas. They weave fine grasses into a nest with a domed roof and side entrance. They consume lots of insects such as grasshoppers, and in winter, they form small flocks and chow down on seeds and grain.

Most of the meadowlark’s diet consists of insects. In summer, it eats countless grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, caterpillars, ants, and spiders. Seeds and waste grain make up over one-fourth of annual diet and are eaten especially in fall and winter.

More information about Missouri’s meadowlarks can be found online at missouriconservation.org

Josh Hartwig is the host of Discover Nature and a media specialist for the Missouri Department of Conservation.
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