Sturnella magna - (Linnaeus, 1758)
Eastern Meadowlark
Other English Common Names: eastern meadowlark
Other Common Names: Peito-Amarelo-Celouro
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Sturnella magna (Linnaeus, 1758) (TSN 179034)
French Common Names: Sturnelle des prés
Spanish Common Names: Pradero Tortilla-Con-Chile
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.104171
Element Code: ABPBXB2020
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Birds - Perching Birds
Image 11022

© Jeff Nadler

 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Aves Passeriformes Icteridae Sturnella
Genus Size: C - Small genus (6-20 species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1998. Check-list of North American birds. Seventh edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. [as modified by subsequent supplements and corrections published in The Auk]. Also available online: http://www.aou.org/.
Concept Reference Code: B98AOU01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Sturnella magna
Taxonomic Comments: Composed of two groups: MAGNA (Eastern Meadowlark) and LILIANAE (Lilian's Meadowlark) (AOU 1998). Constitutes a superspecies with S. NEGLECTA; they rarely interbreed and hybrids are sterile (AOU 1998). Sibley and Monroe (1990) listed populations in Arizona, New Mexico, western and central Texas, eastern Sonora, and northwestern and central Chihuahua as a distinct species, S. LILIANAE, citing unpublished data on vocalizations, morphology, and genetics and a 1972 paper that suggested that LILIANAE might be a distinct species. See Dickerman (1989) for description of a new subspecies (S. M. QUINTA) from South America.
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 10Apr2016
Global Status Last Changed: 04Dec1996
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by inspection
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Reasons: Common and widely distributed residents of prairies, hayfields, pastures, fallow lands, and occasionally fields sown to winter wheat in the eastern half of North America (Roseberry and Klimstra 1970).
Nation: United States
National Status: N5 (19Mar1997)
Nation: Canada
National Status: N4B,NUM (13Jan2018)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Alabama (S5), Arizona (S5), Arkansas (S5), Connecticut (S3B), Delaware (S3), District of Columbia (S1B,S4N), Florida (SNR), Georgia (S5), Illinois (S5), Indiana (S3N,S4B), Iowa (S4B,S4N), Kansas (S5B,S3N), Kentucky (S5B,S5N), Louisiana (S5), Maine (S3S4B), Maryland (S5B,S3N), Massachusetts (S3S4B), Michigan (S5), Minnesota (SNRB), Mississippi (S5B,S5N), Missouri (SNR), Nebraska (S3), New Hampshire (S3B), New Jersey (S3B,S3N), New Mexico (S4B,S5N), New York (S5B), North Carolina (S5B,S5N), Ohio (S5), Oklahoma (S5), Pennsylvania (S5B,S4N), Rhode Island (S3B), South Carolina (SNR), South Dakota (S2B), Tennessee (S5), Texas (S5B), Vermont (S4B), Virginia (S5), West Virginia (S4N,S5B), Wisconsin (S3S4B)
Canada New Brunswick (S1B,S1M), Nova Scotia (SHB), Ontario (S4B), Quebec (S3B)

Other Statuses

Canadian Species at Risk Act (SARA) Schedule 1/Annexe 1 Status: T (02Nov2017)
Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC): Threatened (06May2011)
Comments on COSEWIC: Reason for designation: This ground-nesting grassland specialist has seen major changes in its population size and breeding range since European settlement. Most of its native prairie habitat had fallen to the plough by the end of the 19th century. However, these habitat losses were effectively counter-balanced by the provision of large amounts of surrogate grasslands (primarily pastures and hayfields) as a result of the widespread conversion of eastern deciduous forests to agricultural land. The species initially responded with expansions in its breeding range (primarily eastward). Since the mid 20th century, however, the amount and quality of surrogate grasslands across its range have declined. Although the species' population is still relatively large, it has been undergoing persistent rangewide declines. These declines are believed to be driven mostly by ongoing loss and degradation of grassland habitat on both the breeding and wintering grounds, coupled with reduced reproductive success resulting from some agricultural practices.


Status history: Designated Threatened in May 2011.

IUCN Red List Category: NT - Near threatened

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: >2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: BREEDING: South Dakota and Minnesota east across southern Canada to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, south through eastern United States and Middle America to central Panama and west to Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, and Texas; Cuba; in South America from Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, and Suriname south to Amazonian Brazil (Lanyon 1995, AOU 1998). NON-BREEDING: Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ontario, New York and New England south through breeding range (Lanyon 1995, AOU 1998). RESIDENT: central Arizona, central New Mexico, and western Texas south to Sonora and Chihuahua (AOU 1998).

Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300
Number of Occurrences Comments: Number of occurrences has not been determined but considered common and widespread.

Population Size: 10,000 to >1,000,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Highest BBS density reported for Kentucky, Misouri, and Kansas south through Oklahoma and Arkansas to Texas (41-64 birds per route). Lowest density reported for Maritime Provinces and New England (1-3 birds per route; Lanyon 1995).

Overall Threat Impact Comments: Decline is generally attributed to loss of nesting habitat due to changes in land use and unusually heavy mortality during severe winters (Lanyon 1995). AGRICULTURAL PRACTICES: Mowing of hayfields during the breeding season and spring surface tillage for weed-control destroys nests, young, and incubating adults (Lanyon 1995). HABITAT: Declines are attributed reforestation of or succession from abandoned farmland into woodlots and conversion of grasslands into suburbs (Lanyon 1995). GRAZING: Nests may be trampled by livestock. PESTICIDES: Mortality reported from eating grain poisoned to control rodents or insects (Griffin 1959 cited in Lanyon 1995). PREDATION: Eggs and nestlings may be depredated by foxes, domestic cats and dogs, coyotes, snakes, skunks, raccoons, or other small mammals (Lanyon 1995). PARASITISM: Nests widely parasitized by brown-headed cowbird (MOLOTHRUS ATER) but data on parasitism rates are not available.

Short-term Trend: Decline of 10-30%
Short-term Trend Comments: Increased noticeably in the northeastern U.S. during the nineteenth century as a result of deforestation and the spread of agriculture (Andrle and Carroll 1988, Laughlin and Kibbe 1985). These population trends were reversed during the twentieth century, and now express some of the most consistent declines of any grassland bird covered by the North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS). BBS data indicate a significant decline (averaging 2.53% per year) in North America, 1966-1993 (Peterjohn et al. 1994). Greatest rates of decline in the northeastern states. Increasing in some parts especially along western edge of the breeding range from western Kansas into central Texas. In Colombia and Costa Rica, now more widespread than formerly, due to deforestation (Hilty and Brown 1986, Stiles and Skutch 1989).

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Protection Needs: Protect large tracts (ideally 500+ acres) of suitable habitat.

Distribution
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Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) BREEDING: South Dakota and Minnesota east across southern Canada to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, south through eastern United States and Middle America to central Panama and west to Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, and Texas; Cuba; in South America from Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, and Suriname south to Amazonian Brazil (Lanyon 1995, AOU 1998). NON-BREEDING: Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ontario, New York and New England south through breeding range (Lanyon 1995, AOU 1998). RESIDENT: central Arizona, central New Mexico, and western Texas south to Sonora and Chihuahua (AOU 1998).

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
NOTE: The maps for birds represent the breeding status by state and province. In some jurisdictions, the subnational statuses for common species have not been assessed and the status is shown as not-assessed (SNR). In some jurisdictions, the subnational status refers to the status as a non-breeder; these errors will be corrected in future versions of these maps. A species is not shown in a jurisdiction if it is not known to breed in the jurisdiction or if it occurs only accidentally or casually in the jurisdiction. Thus, the species may occur in a jurisdiction as a seasonal non-breeding resident or as a migratory transient but this will not be indicated on these maps. See other maps on this web site that depict the Western Hemisphere ranges of these species at all seasons of the year.
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AL, AR, AZ, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, VA, VT, WI, WV
Canada NB, NS, ON, QC

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.

Range Map Compilers: NatureServe, 2002; WILDSPACETM 2002


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
CT Hartford (09003), Litchfield (09005), New Haven (09009), New London (09011), Tolland (09013), Windham (09015)
NE Cherry (31031), Lancaster (31109), Pawnee (31133), Saline (31151), Seward (31159)
NH Cheshire (33005), Coos (33007), Grafton (33009), Hillsborough (33011), Merrimack (33013), Rockingham (33015), Strafford (33017)
NJ Atlantic (34001), Burlington (34005), Cape May (34009), Cumberland (34011), Gloucester (34015), Hunterdon (34019), Mercer (34021), Middlesex (34023), Monmouth (34025), Morris (34027), Ocean (34029), Salem (34033), Somerset (34035), Sussex (34037), Warren (34041)
SD Bennett (46007), Shannon (46113)*, Todd (46121)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
01 Piscataqua-Salmon Falls (01060003)+, Nashua (01070004)+, Merrimack (01070006)+, Upper Connecticut (01080101)+, Waits (01080103)+, Upper Connecticut-Mascoma (01080104)+, Black-Ottauquechee (01080106)+, West (01080107)+, Middle Connecticut (01080201)+, Lower Connecticut (01080205)+, Farmington (01080207)+, Shetucket (01100002)+, Thames (01100003)+, Quinnipiac (01100004)+, Housatonic (01100005)+
02 Rondout (02020007)+, Hackensack-Passaic (02030103)+, Sandy Hook-Staten Island (02030104)+, Raritan (02030105)+, Middle Delaware-Mongaup-Brodhead (02040104)+, Middle Delaware-Musconetcong (02040105)+, Crosswicks-Neshaminy (02040201)+, Lower Delaware (02040202)+, Cohansey-Maurice (02040206)+, Mullica-Toms (02040301)+, Great Egg Harbor (02040302)+
10 Little White (10140203)+, Upper Niobrara (10150003)+*, Middle Niobrara (10150004)+, Snake (10150005)+, Keya Paha (10150006)+, Salt (10200203)+, South Fork Big Nemaha (10240007)+, Big Nemaha (10240008)+, Middle Big Blue (10270202)+, Lower Big Blue (10270205)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: A small bird (meadowlark).
Reproduction Comments: Clutch size 3-7 in north (commonly 5); larger in north than in south). Usually 2 broods per year in north. Incubation 13-15 days, by female. Young tended mainly by female; male may take over feeding of fledged young while female renests. In Ontario, 2/3 of nesting females were polygynously mated (Knapton 1988). In pairs or family groups most of year (Stiles and Skutch 1989).
Ecology Comments: Breeding territory of male is about 3 ha (Terres 1980).
Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: Y
Long Distance Migrant: Y
Mobility and Migration Comments: Populations in northern part of breeding range are migratory; return north to nesting areas usually in early April, males arrive about 2 weeks prior to females (Terres 1980).
Estuarine Habitat(s): Herbaceous wetland
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Cropland/hedgerow, Grassland/herbaceous, Savanna
Habitat Comments: Grasslands, savanna, open fields, pastures, cultivated lands, sometimes marshes. In southeastern Arizona, avoided recently burned grassland habitats (Southwest. Nat. 37:73). Nests on the ground in concealing herbage.
Adult Food Habits: Granivore, Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Granivore, Invertivore
Food Comments: Eats mainly insects and other small invertebrates, also grain and seeds; forages on the ground (Terres 1980).
Adult Phenology: Diurnal
Immature Phenology: Diurnal
Length: 24 centimeters
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary
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Restoration Potential: Plant mixed-grass hayfields and restrict surface tilling (Jones and Vickery 1997).
Preserve Selection & Design Considerations: Minimum grassland size 15-20 acres (Jones and Vickery 1997).
Management Requirements: Mow every 1-3 years in no earlier than August. Tolerates light grazing (grass height > 5 inches), with rotational grazing to vary grass height and density. Will use sites 2-4 years after a burn (Jones and Vickery 1997).
Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Group Name: Passerines

Use Class: Breeding
Subtype(s): Foraging Area, Nest Site, Nesting Colony
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Evidence of historical breeding, or current and likely recurring breeding, at a given location, minimally a reliable observation of one or more breeding pairs in appropriate habitat. Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single breeding events outside the normal breeding distribution.

Mapping Guidance: Breeding occurrences include nesting areas as well as foraging areas.

For swallows and other species that have separate nesting and foraging areas, separations are based on nest sites or nesting areas, not to locations of foraging individuals. For example, nesting areas separated by a gap larger than the separation distance are different occurrences, regardless of the foraging locations of individuals from those nesting areas. This separation procedure is appropriate because nesting areas are the critical aspect of swallow breeding occurrences, tend to be relatively stable or at least somwhat predictable in general location, and so are the basis for effective conservation; foraging areas are much more flexible and not necessarily static.

Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Significant dispersal and associated high potential for gene flow among populations of birds separated by tens of kilometers (e.g., Moore and Dolbeer 1989), and increasing evidence that individuals leave their usual home range to engage in extrapair copulations, as well as long foraging excursions of some species, make it difficult to circumscribe occurrences on the basis of meaningful population units without occurrences becoming too large. Hence, a moderate, standardized separation distance has been adopted for songbirds and flycatchers; it should yield occurrences that are not too spatially expansive while also accounting for the likelihood of gene flow among populations within a few kilometers of each other.

Be careful not to separate a population's nesting areas and foraging areas as different occurrences; include them in the same occurrence even if they are more than 5 km apart. Mean foraging radius (from nesting area) of Brown-headed Cowbird females was 4.0 kilometers in California, 1.2 kilometers in Illinois-Missouri (Thompson 1994). Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Brewer's Blackbirds, and probably Red-winged Blackbirds all forage up to 1.6 kilometers away from breeding colony (Willson 1966, Horn 1968). In one study, Brewer's Blackbirds were found as far as 10 kilometers from nesting area (Williams 1952), but this may be unusual.

For swallows and other parrerines with similar behavioral ecology, separation distance pertains to nest sites or nesting colonies, not to locations of foraging individuals. For example, nesting areas separated by a gap of more than 5 km are different occurrences, regardless of the foraging locations of individuals from those nesting areas. This separation procedure is appropriate because nesting areas are the critical aspect of swallow breeding occurrences, tend to be relatively stable or at least somwhat predictable in general location, and so are the basis for effective conservation; foraging areas are much more flexible and not necessarily static.

Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single breeding events outside the normal breeding distribution.

Unsuitable habitat: Habitat not normally used for breeding/feeding by a particular species. For example, unsuitable habitat for grassland and shrubland birds includes forest/woodland, urban/suburban, and aquatic habitats. Most habitats would be suitable for birds with versatile foraging habits (e.g., most corvids).

Date: 10Sep2004
Author: Hammerson, G.

Use Class: Migratory stopover
Subtype(s): Foraging Area, Roost Site
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: For most passerines: Evidence of recurring presence of migrating individuals (including historical) and potential recurring presence at a given location; minimally a reliable observation of 25 birds in appropriate habitat.

For swallows: Evidence of recurring presence of migrating flocks (including historical) and potential recurring presence at a given location; minimally a reliable observation of 100 birds in appropriate habitat (e.g., traditional roost sites).

Occurrences should be locations where the species is resident for some time during the appropriate season; it is preferable to have observations documenting presence over at least 7 days annually.

EOs should not be described for species that are nomadic during nonbreeding season: e.g., Lark Bunting.

Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single events.

Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Separation distance somewhat arbitrary but intended to define occurrences of managable size for conservation purposes. Occurrences defined primarily on the basis of areas supporting concentrations of birds, rather than on the basis of distinct populations.

For swallows and other species with similar behavioral ecology, the separation distance pertains to communal roost sites rather than to foraging areas; the former tend to be more stable and specific over time than the latter.

Date: 03Sep2004
Author: Hammerson, G., and S. Cannings

Use Class: Nonbreeding
Subtype(s): Foraging Area, Roost Site
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Any area used traditionally in the nonbreeding season (used for populations that are not resident in a location year-round). Minimally, reliable observations of 10 or more individuals in appropriate habitat for 20 or more days at a time. For G1-G3 species, observations of fewer individuals could constitute an occurrence of conservation value. Sites used during migration should be documented under the 'migratory stopover' location use class.

Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Separation distance is necessarily arbitrary but attempts to balance the high mobility of birds with the need for occurrences of reasonable spatial scope. Note that a population's roost sites and foraging areas are parts of the same occurrence, even if they are more than 5 km apart.

For swallows and other species with similar behavioral ecology, the separation distance pertains to communal roost sites rather than to foraging areas; the former tend to be more stable and specific over time than the latter.

Date: 03Sep2004
Author: Hammerson, G.

Use Class: Nonmigratory
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Occurrences are based on evidence of historical presence, or current and likely recurring presence, at a particular location. Such evidence minimally includes collection or reliable observation and documentation of one or more individuals in or near appropriate habitat.

These occurrence specifications are used for nonmigratory populations of passerine birds.

Separation Barriers: None.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Significant dispersal and associated high potential for gene flow among populations of birds separated by tens of kilometers (e.g., Moore and Dolbeer 1989), and increasing evidence that individuals leave their usual home range to engage in extrapair copulations, as well as long foraging excursions of some species, make it difficult to circumscribe occurrences on the basis of meaningful population units without occurrences becoming too large. Hence, a moderate, standardized separation distance has been adopted for songbirds and flycatchers; it should yield occurrences that are not too spatially expansive while also accounting for the likelihood of gene flow among populations within a few kilometers of each other.

Be careful not to separate a population's nesting areas and breeding-season foraging areas as different occurrences; include them in the same occurrence even if they are more than 5 km apart. Blue jays have small summer home ranges but fly up to 4 kilometers to harvest mast (Tarvin and Woolfenden 1999). Flocks of pinyon jays range over 21-29 square kilometers (Ligon 1971, Balda and Bateman 1971); nesting and foraging areas may be widely separated. Tricolored blackbirds forage in flocks that range widely to more than 15 kilometers from the nesting colony (Beedy and Hamilton 1999).

Unsuitable habitat: Habitat not normally used for breeding/feeding by a particular species. For example, unsuitable habitat for grassland and shrubland birds includes forest/woodland, urban/suburban, and aquatic habitats. Most habitats would be suitable for birds with versatile foraging habits (e.g., most corvids).

Date: 10Sep2004
Author: Hammerson, G.
Notes: These specs pertain to nonmigratory species.
Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 20Aug1999
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: M. KOENEN; Revisions by D.W. MEHLMAN
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 22Dec1993
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
Help
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  • See SERO listing

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