Bird Database

Eastern Meadowlark

(Sturnella magna)

State of the Birds
At a Glance



Short distance


Strongly Decreasing


Habitat loss and fragmentation, Mowing

Conservation Actions

Time mowing of grassland habitats to minimize imacts on ground-nesting birds

Eastern Meadowlark

(Sturnella magna)

Like most grassland birds, the Eastern Meadowlark did not occur in New Hampshire until settlers cleared much of the eastern forest for agriculture in the 1800s. After a corridor of open habitat was created, meadowlarks spread east from the prairies of the Midwest and became quite common in New England by the middle of that century. They remained a frequent sight in the southern part of the state through the 1960s, at which point they began a precipitous decline and now number fewer than 50 territories statewide. Most of these are in the Connecticut Valley and seacoast regions, with lower numbers in the Merrimack Valley. Although meadowlarks still occasionally nest north of the White Mountains they are no longer expected there.

Much of this decline was due to farm abandonment as farmers sought more productive land elsewhere (they essentially took the meadowlarks’ trip in reverse). Because meadowlarks prefer fields over 15-20 acres, they were among the first species to suffer as grassland patches became smaller and more dispersed. The fields that remain occupied in the state are of two types: airports and extensive hayfields, both of which are subject to frequent mowing which destroys birds’ nests. Meadowlarks have a little bit of an edge over species like the Bobolink because they can start nesting as early as late April and can sometimes fledge young before the first mow occurs in some hayfields. In some cases, careful monitoring of a site can identify areas of highest activity that can be set aside until young fledge.

No discussion of the Eastern Meadowlark would be complete without reference to its song. It consists of a several clear descending whistled notes that can be heard from a considerable distance. In many parts of its range this song is something of a symbol for the open spaces and grassy vistas that meadowlarks call home.

Seasonal Abundance

Relative abundance based on eBird data. Numbers indicate likelihood of finding this species in suitable habitat at a given time of year, not actual numbers encountered.

Eastern Meadowlark
Range Map

Information for the species profiles on this website was compiled from a combination of the sources listed below.

  • The Birds of New Hampshire. By Allan R. Keith and Robert B. Fox. 2013. Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological club No. 19.

  • Atlas of the Breeding Birds of New Hampshire. Carol R. Foss, ed. 1994. Arcadia Publishing Company and Audubon Society of New Hampshire

  • Birds of the World. Various authors and dates. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

  • Data from the Breeding Bird Survey

  • Data from the Christmas Bird Count