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What is the State Bird of Oregon? (And Why?)

Oregon is the 9th largest and the 27th most populous state in the US. It's one of the most geographically diverse states in the US, with a mixture of forests, shrublands, deserts, large bodies of water and even volcanoes! The state animal for Oregon is the beaver, but what is the state bird?

The state of Oregon chose the Western meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta) as the state bird in 1927. The medium-sized, brightly colored, streaked, spotted meadowlark bird with its thoughtful, introspective look, seems to consider all that Oregon offers from its perch in the state’s open grasslands. This carnivore mostly eats bugs but will make do with seeds and berries when it must.

The state bird of Oregon, the western meadowlark, singing from a perch

The state bird of Oregon, the western meadowlark, singing from a perch

Why is the Western meadowlark the state bird for Oregon?

The state of natural wonders, Oregon, chose the wild meadowlark for its state bird. This bird settled down in the open grasslands of the state and children throughout the state fell in love with it. In 1927, the Oregon Audubon society held a contest in which the schoolchildren voted. Of the state’s nearly 80,000 schoolchildren at the time, more than half voted for the Western meadowlark, according to the Portland Audubon group’s website. As years have passed and grasslands disappeared, so have the number of meadowlarks. Rather than protecting their habitat, the state legislature has considered amending its laws to re-designate a new state bird. The Audubon Society has protested and offered to hold a new contest, but the legislature of the state refused. It suggested the osprey as the new state bird but has not yet voted on the matter. The Portland Audubon group led the protest against the change.

When did the Western Meadowlark become the state bird for Oregon?

The state of Oregon waited until 1927 to name its state bird. Once the contest finished and the schoolchildren’s votes counted, the governor of the state issued a proclamation naming the bird as the state bird. Oregon shares the Western meadowlark as a state bird with Montana, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wyoming.

Close up portrait of a Western Meadowlark

Close up portrait of a Western Meadowlark

What does the state bird of Oregon look like?

This member of the blackbird family brightens the grassy areas of Oregon with its yellow-breasted feathers. It features some unique characteristics, including a V-shaped band of black.

The Western meadowlark grows a black and gray beak. It features tan and brown feathers with black and white markings.

From head to tail, the Western meadowlark measures 6.5 to 10 inches in length. Its wingspan reaches 16 inches. These little birds weigh between three and four ounces.

How do Western Meadowlarks behave?

Meadowlarks remain active during the daytime. At night, they quietly move into cover and stay quiet.

You will not hear them sing at night. These birds make their nests on the ground in sparse shrubs and grasses. Since they do not remain out of predator reach, they have honed their ability to live stealthily once the sun sets. You won’t find them in forests or even in thick shrubs.

The male western meadowlark establishes its breeding ground before the arrival of females of its kind. It might spend up to a month defending its territory before females arrive. Like many other birds, the male and female use song – mating calls – to meet. Finding one another while the female gathers nest materials, they construct the nest and breed. Unlike most of the birds, meadowlark males breed with two females per season. These busy dads bring food to both nests and spend time with both of their families, contributing to the rearing of the chicks.

Once the chicks hatch from the eggs, the doting mom and dad fiercely protect them. Ironically, they will desert a nest with eggs though if a human appears. The incubating eggs get left behind, making it imperative that you never approach a meadowlark’s nest, and you never allow your child to either. For other intruders, interrupting their privacy, the male meadowlark will noisily chase any away regardless of the predator’s size. The father bird does this guard duty at both nests to protect his young.

Western Meadowlark taking off for flight

Western Meadowlark taking off for flight

Do Western meadowlarks form communities?

Meadowlarks form nuclear families despite the males having two families. These birds are monogamous but don’t mate for life with one female. They keep two separate domiciles and provide for both families equally. This means that the male of this species constantly hunts. They drop the food off at each nest and the female bird feeds the baby birds.

The incubation period for their eggs lasts about 13 to 16 days. Once baby birds mature, they leave the nest, typically at about two weeks old. They can’t fly yet, so their parents continue to look after them as they explore the grassland. At about five to six weeks of age, they begin flying. This lets them explore further and establish their own hunting area.

They may relocate. This migratory bird spends its winters in the southern US states and Mexico. In warm weather months, these birds fly as far north as Canada. The birds migrate back to their summer habitat in Canada during late April or early May. The western meadowlark can travel as far as the breeding grounds of the eastern meadowlark. The two sub-species will mate when needed. Their offspring won’t be as virile as it would have if two eastern meadowlarks or two western meadowlarks had mated.

Western Meadowlark with a beak full of insects

Western Meadowlark with a beak full of insects

What do Western meadowlarks eat?

Almost anything is the answer to what a meadowlark will eat. They rotate their diet depending on the time of year. Meadowlarks love weed seeds but also munch on grains and bugs. Their diet of insects includes a greater number of dishes than most birds. This gourmet bird of the blackbird family dines on ants, beetles, crickets, cutworms, and grasshoppers. This means they eat a few of the same foods as humans, since humans make a delicacy of ants and grasshoppers. We tend to like grains, too.

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