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Facts & Figures

State Bird Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark, photo provided courtesy of Jaime and Lisa Johnson

To Meriwether Lewis goes the distinction of not only "discovering" the Bitterroot but also first recording what became Montana's state bird. Under the date of June 22, 1805, Lewis noted in his journal the appearance of a lark with a yellow breast and black spot on the throat. It resembled in size, action, and color the eastern lark with which he was more familiar, but the song was richer and more varied.

The western meadowlark's cheerful song, consisting of a loud, clear, warbling whistle, makes him easily recognizable. His peculiar flight habits, several short, rapid wing beats alternated with brief periods of sailing, also make the western meadowlark very recognizable. This bird has its nest on the ground in a hidden spot and has from three to seven eggs of mixed white, brown, and purple.

The western meadowlark has captured the attention and interest of Montanans from Lewis to the present. When asked in 1930 which bird best represented Montana, the state's school children responded overwhelmingly with the meadowlark. Legislators agreed the next session, and in 1931, the western meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta) added its song as another official representative of the Big Sky Country.

Visit montanakids.com's Sounds in Montana section to hear a western meadowlark.

Special Acknowledgements to: Montana Historical Society, Rex C. Meyers and Norma B. Ashby

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