Family New World Blackbirds (Icteridae)

Near Threatened

Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna)


French: Sturnelle des prés German: Lerchenstärling Spanish: Pradero oriental

A[lauda]. magna


, 1758,

South Carolina, USA


Taxon lilianae was treated as a separate species in HBW on morphological, vocal and genetic grounds#R, but differences in morphology minor, while vocal characters (steeply downslurred whistles in song) are shared with taxa in Middle and South America (populations elsewhere in USA and E Mexico have rather flat whistles, while those in E Andes of Venezuela and NE Colombia have several upslurred or underslurred whistles and some distinctly buzzy notes)#R; races auropectoralis and saundersi are sometimes considered part of same group as lilianae; research needed on all of these groups, especially to determine their precise (or imprecise) borders. Statement in HBW that race hippocrepis may merit full species rank needs expansion; differs from others somewhat vocally, song typically ending with a buzz or rattle (2) and notes on average shorter and less slurred (i.e. with different shape) (1). Subspecific limits, especially in South America, need further study, e.g. race monticola commonly subsumed into praticola; distributions listed below tentative. Populations in French Guiana and NE Brazil (Amapá) sometimes treated as race quinta, but type specimen of latter is from Roraima (N Brazil), technically within range of monticola (or praticola); these three taxa require re-evaluation. Race inexspectata often listed as “inexpectata” but this is an unjustified emendation. Sixteen subspecies recognized.

What do (1) and (2) mean? Learn more about the scoring system.
Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. m. lilianae Oberholser, 1930 – Lilian's Meadowlark – S USA (from C Arizona, C New Mexico, extreme SE Colorado#R and W Texas) S to N Mexico (S to N Sonora and C Chihuahua).
  • S. m. magna (Linnaeus, 1758) – Eastern Meadowlark – SE Canada (S Ontario E to New Brunswick) and E USA from Minnesota E to Maine S to C Texas and C North Carolina.
  • S. m. argutula Bangs, 1899 – S USA from Kansas and Oklahoma E to South Carolina and S to E Texas and Florida.
  • S. m. hoopesi Stone, 1897 – extreme S USA (SE Texas) and NE Mexico (N Tamaulipas).
  • S. m. auropectoralis G. B. Saunders, 1934 – highlands of W Mexico from Sinaloa and Durango S to upper R Lerma drainage (in México) and to coastal Nayarit.
  • S. m. mexicana P. L. Sclater, 1861 – coastal lowlands of E Mexico (from N Veracruz) S to Guatemala (Petén) and Belize.
  • S. m. griscomi Van Tyne & Trautman, 1941 – coast of N Yucatán, in SE Mexico.
  • S. m. saundersi Dickerman & A. R. Phillips, 1970 – Pacific lowlands of S Mexico (SE Oaxaca).
  • S. m. inexspectata Ridgway, 1888 – Honduras and adjacent NE Nicaragua.
  • S. m. alticola Nelson, 1900 – highlands from S Mexico (Chiapas) S to Costa Rica.
  • S. m. subulata Griscom, 1934 – Panama (mostly along Pacific slope).
  • S. m. meridionalis P. L. Sclater, 1861 – NE Andes from Colombia (Santander and Cundinamarca) E to NW Venezuela (Trujillo).
  • S. m. paralios Bangs, 1901 – N Colombia (Santa Marta Mts S to W base of E Andes) and savannas of N & C Venezuela.
  • S. m. praticola C. Chubb, 1921 – E llanos of Colombia and SE Venezuela E to Guyana and Suriname.
  • S. m. monticola C. Chubb, 1921 – Guianan highlands from Venezuela (Bolívar) and Guyana E to French Guiana and extreme N Brazil (Roraima and Amapá).
  • S. m. hippocrepis (Wagler, 1832) – Cuban Meadowlark – Cuba, including I of Pines.
  • Descriptive notes

    20–24 cm; male average 102 g and female 76 g (argutula), male 86–110 g, female 65·6–88·7 g (alticola), male 87–92 g,... read more


    Song (magna group) variable, usually a series of four pleasant, descending whistles.... read more


    Open humid grasslands, meadows, alfalfa (Medicago) fields, hay fields, and pastures in... read more

    Food and feeding

    Contents of 1514 stomachs comprised 74% animal food and 26% plant food. Feeds mostly on adult and larval insects, main insect prey... read more


    Season Apr–Aug in USA, Jan–Jul in Cuba, and from late Apr in Nicaragua; second broods frequent. In North America monogamous to... read more


    Usually resident in Cuba and in Central and South America. Populations from Canada S to N Mexico... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Currently considered Near Threatened. Common and widely distributed in N portion of range; fairly common to locally common in Mexico and in Central... read more

    Recommended citation

    Fraga, R. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 21 November 2019).