Western Meadowlark
(Sturnella neglecta)


Picture of bird
© Glen Tepke (www.pbase.com/gtepke)
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

The Western Meadowlark is an iconic summer resident of the Canadian prairies and intermountain grasslands. Breeding Bird Survey results indicate that the Canadian population has decreased by about 47% since 1970. This decline is likely due to habitat loss. This species has been identified as a priority for conservation and/or stewardship in one or more Bird Conservation Region Strategies in Canada.


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
IUCN (Global)Least concern2018 
Wild Species (Canada)Secure2015 
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

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

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada5,000,000 - 50,000,000 adults

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence

Short-distance migrant

Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population

General nesting period in Canada

Nesting period starts between late March and mid-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 decline of the Western Meadowlark is thought to be related to habitat loss, both through an increase in forest habitat at the eastern edge of the range (e.g., Ontario) and to agricultural and other developments in the remainder of the range (Davis and Lanyon 2008). A strong negative relationship between hay production and grassland bird populations has been observed in several species of grassland birds (Nocera and Koslowsky 2011). However, the Western Meadowlark has also benefited from increased planted cover in prairie Canada (Watmough and Schmoll 2007, McMaster and Davis 2001). The species overwinters in the southwestern United States and Mexico, where grassland habitats are being lost and degraded by desertification (Askins et al. 2007, Panjabi et al. 2010). Future research is needed in order to determine if habitat change on the wintering grounds has contributed to breeding ground population change.


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
Great BasinGreat Basin, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Conservation
Northern Pacific RainforestNorthern Pacific Rainforest, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Other
Prairie PotholesPrairie Potholes, sub-region and priority type: Prairie and Northern -- Conservation