Discover the Official State Bird of Kansas

Written by Gerald Dlubala
Published: October 29, 2023
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The official state bird of Kansas is the western meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta). It is related to the oriole and a member of the blackbird family. The western meadowlark was named the official state bird of Kansas in 1937. Montana, Oregon, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wyoming also claim the western meadowlark as their official state bird.

Birds that nest on the ground: Western Meadowlark

Kansa adopted the western meadowlark as its state bird in 1937.

©iStock.com/Gary Gray

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How the Official State Bird of Kansas was Chosen

The Kansas Audobon Society organized a survey that gathered responses from approximately 121,000 students across the state about their choice of an official state bird. Results were overwhelmingly in favor of the western meadowlark as the official state bird of Kansas. The western meadowlark received almost 44,000 votes. The next closest choices were the bobwhite and the cardinal. Subsequently, in 1937, the Kansas legislature made it official by crowning the western meadowlark as the official state bird of Kansas.

Northern Bobwhites drinking, Texas, USA

The bobwhite came in a distant second in the running for the official state bird of Kansas.

©Danita Delimont/Shutterstock.com

Tips to Identify the Official State Bird of Kansas

The western meadowlark is actually a member of the blackbird family and is related to the oriole. The adults have black and white striped heads. There is a unique V-shaped band of black draping its golden yellow breast. The colors of the western meadowlark, especially the bright yellow chest and stomach area, match and blend in with the blooms of the state’s large population of sunflowers. The sharply pointed beak is grey and outlined in black. The feathers are tan and brown with black and white patterned marks.

They possess distinctive whistle-like calls that have been called flute-like. The western meadowlark weighs only 3-4 ounces and measures 6 1/2 to 10 inches from head to tail. Their wingspan can reach 16 inches.

Western Meadowlark Male

The western meadowlark’s yellow breast and belly blend in with the many sunflower fields found in Kansas.

©photographybyJHWilliams/iStock via Getty Images

Nesting and Dietary Habits of Western Meadowlarks

Western meadowlarks are usually found nesting on grasslands in the western and central regions of the U.S. These ground-nesting birds prefer open grasslands, meadows, prairies, and pastures, but will build nests in available shrubs and taller grassy areas. In urban areas, they will nest in cultivated fields.

Western meadowlarks are most active in daylight and remain in their nests at night. To avoid predators, the birds remain completely silent after sunset. They are migratory, spending winters in southern U.S. states and Mexico. In warm weather, they migrate back to their home, which could be as far north as Canada. They are also found in the western half of Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas.

The meadowlark’s diet changes throughout the year, but generally consists of a combination of grain seeds, berries, grasshoppers, and other insects.

Marysee Prarie Preserve Liberty County Texas

Prairies and grasslands provide preferred nesting areas for western meadowlarks.

©William L. Farr / CC BY-SA 4.0 – License

Western Meadowlark Eggs

The incubation period for western meadowlark eggs lasts between 13 and 16 days. After about 14 days, the baby birds will mature enough to wander out of the nest. As they cannot fly yet, they explore the surrounding grasslands under the watchful eye of their parents. The young birds will begin to fly at 5-6 weeks, widening their area of exploration. The baby birds, upon flying, may choose to stay in the area or leave to establish their own hunting and nesting grounds.

Western Meadowlark (sturnella neglecta) perched in some tall grass

Young western meadowlarks explore the grasslands under their parents’ watchful eye until they can fly.

©Nancy Strohm/iStock via Getty Images

The Breeding Habits of the Western Meadowlark

Breeding occurs on selected grounds guarded by the males days or weeks before the females arrive. You may see the males perched on poles, wires, and fences while guarding their territory. Females gather nesting materials and construct the nest.

Western meadowlark males generally breed with two females a season, bringing food to both nests during this time. The western meadowlark will mate with the eastern meadowlark if needed. The male and female protect the nest and chase predators away unless that predator is human.

Western meadowlarks will abandon their nests if approached by humans, so it’s always advisable to stay away from a nest when possible.

Western Meadowlark broadside

Male western meadowlarks hunt and bring food to the nest for the female to feed the young.

©photographybyJHWilliams/iStock via Getty Images

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Kerry Hargrove/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Gerald Dlubala is a writer at A-Z Animals where his primary focus is on animals, plants, and places. Gerald has been writing for over 25 years and holds a Bachelor's Degree from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Gerald has shared his home with numerous pets, including dogs, cats, a variety of fish and newts, turtles, hermit crabs, rabbits, and a flock of birds. Gerald enjoys all animal and plant life and looks at every day as an opportunity to learn something new about the world around us.

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