Eastern meadowlarks are medium-sized songbirds often heard during summer, singing their sweet, lazy song across grasslands and farms. Adults have yellow underparts with a black "V" on the breast and white flanks with black streaks. The upperparts are mainly brown in color with black streaks. Meadowlarks have a long pointed bill, dark brown eyes, and their head is striped with light brown and black.
Eastern meadowlarks are found from eastern North America to South America, where they are also most widespread in the east. These birds are permanent residents throughout much of their range, though most northern populations migrate southwards in winter. Eastern meadowlarks inhabit mainly grasslands and prairie, but can also be found in shrublands, meadows, pastures, hayfields, and other grassy areas.
Eastern meadowlarks are shy diurnal birds that spend most of their time in tall grasses searching for food. They forage on the ground or in thick vegetation, sometimes probing with the bill. Eastern meadowlarks are social and in winter, they often feed in flocks. These are very vocal birds that use a variety of songs and calls to communicate with each other. Their song consists of pure, melancholy whistles, and when alarmed Eastern meadowlarks produce a short buzzy call.
Eastern meadowlarks are polygynous and males usually mate with 2-3 females which they accept in their territories. Nesting occurs throughout the summer months. Females build their nests in shallow depressions on the ground and cover them with a roof woven from grasses. The clutch size is 2-6 eggs, incubated by the female for 13 to 14 days. The chicks are born naked, blind, and are fed mainly by the female. They start to leave the nest at around 10 or 12 days after hatching and become completely independent 2 weeks later. Reproductive maturity is usually reached by the first year of age.
Habitat loss due to agricultural expansion is probably the biggest threat to Eastern meadowlarks. Allowing marginal areas of fields on farms to seed with grass can provide nesting habitat for meadowlarks and all grassland birds. Delaying hay harvest can also improve survival, giving young meadowlarks a chance of fledging. Other important threats include the use of pesticides and overgrazing by livestock. Eastern meadowlarks are also sensitive to disturbances and nesting females often abandon their clutches if they are flushed from their nests.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of Eastern meadowlarks is 37,000,000 mature individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are increasing.
Eastern meadowlarks play an important role in their ecosystem. Due to their diet habits, these birds control populations of insects which could damage the vegetation and also disperse the seeds of fruits and plants they eat. Meadowlarks also provide food for many local predators including foxes, skunks, birds of prey, coyotes, as wells as dogs and domestic cats.