Eastern Meadowlark
(Sturnella magna)

Summary

Picture of bird
© Jukka Jantunen (flickr.com/photos/jukka_jantunen)
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

The Eastern Meadowlark is an uncommon inhabitant of agricultural grasslands (hayfields and pastures) in southeastern Canada. The breeding population in Canada is well monitored by the Breeding Bird Survey, which shows a large, ongoing decrease from 1970 to the present. Because of the population decrease and continuing threats to habitat, the Eastern Meadowlark was assessed as Threatened by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC 2011b) in 2011 and listed under the Species at Risk Act in 2017. This species has been identified as a priority for conservation and/or stewardship in one or more Bird Conservation Region Strategies in Canada.

Designations

Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
COSEWIC (Canada)Threatened2011 
SARA (Canada)Threatened2017 
IUCN (Global)Near threatened2018 
Partners in Flight (North America)Common birds in steep decline2017 
Wild Species (Canada)Apparently secure2015 
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaLarge DecreaseHighBelow Acceptable Level
 

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada50,000 - 500,000 adults
 

Distribution maps

 

Migration strategy, occurrence

Short-distance migrant

Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population
CanadaLow

General nesting period in Canada

Nesting period starts between early May and late May and ends between mid-July and late July, depending on the region. Before or after this period, the probability of an active nest is lower.
 

Conservation and management

The ongoing loss and degradation of its grassland habitat on both the breeding and wintering ground is likely the biggest threat to the species. Threats to habitat are primarily associated with increasingly intensive agricultural practices including conversion of suitable habitat to row crops, grazing and trampling by livestock, mortality from mowing of hayfields during the nesting period and the use of pesticides and other contaminants (Jaster et al. 2012). The species is also sensitive to Brown-headed Cowbird nest parasitism and predation by both native and non-native predators, resulting in reduced reproductive success. Eastern Meadowlark populations are susceptible to heavy mortality during severe winters. Although the species benefited from land clearing during the European settlement period, human encroachment and recent changes in land use are having long-term, negative effects (Jaster et al. 2012) both on the breeding and wintering grounds. For information on the legal status of this species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) see the SARA Registry.

 

Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type
Atlantic Northern ForestsAtlantic Northern Forests, sub-region and priority type: Atlantic, NB -- Other
Atlantic Northern ForestsAtlantic Northern Forests, sub-region and priority type: Quebec -- Other
Boreal Hardwood TransitionBoreal Hardwood Transition, sub-region and priority type: Quebec -- Other
Boreal Softwood ShieldBoreal Softwood Shield, sub-region and priority type: Quebec -- Other
Lower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence PlainLower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Plain, sub-region and priority type: Ontario -- Conservation
Lower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence PlainLower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Plain, sub-region and priority type: Quebec -- Conservation
 

References