meadowlark, common North American meadow bird of the family Icteridae, also called meadow starling. Unlike other members of the family, which comprises blackbirds, grackles, orioles, and others, the meadowlark does not travel in large flocks, and it eats harmful insects rather than grain. The eastern meadowlark, Sturnella magna, known for its clear, whistling song, is about 10 in. (25 cm) long. In color, it is brown streaked with black above and yellow below with a broad black crescent across the chest. The Western species, Sturnella neglecta, is slightly smaller, and its call is lower. Recent experiments have shown that the two species do not interbreed in the wild, although they are nearly indistinguishable. Meadowlarks are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Passeriformes, family Icteridae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Vertebrate Zoology