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Even though there are subtle physical differences between eastern and western meadowlarks, most birders rely on their ears to differentiate these look-alike species. The western meadowlark has richer gurgles in its song while the eastern has clearer whistles.

Watch Wild Double Take: Eastern and Western Meadowlarks on YouTube.


Find tips for identifying Oklahoma’s look-alike species in our video series on YouTube.

Similarities: Both eastern and western meadowlarks are stocky grassland birds that are members of the blackbird family. They have brown streaked backs and yellow breasts with black throat patches and their long, pointed bills are used to feed on insects and seeds. These birds are often found foraging on the ground, but they may also perch on fences and males regularly sing from elevated perches like fence posts. 

Differences: While song is the best distinguishing feature – the western meadowlark has richer gurgles while the eastern has clearer whistles – subtle physical differences can be used to identify the look-alike meadowlarks. The yellow on western meadowlark’s throat continues into the malar region near the lower mandible. The western meadowlark also has limited white feathers on the tail edges. Eastern meadowlarks have a pale malar in contrast to the yellow throat and have wider bands of white on the tail edges.    

If you see a meadowlark in your backyard, local park, or the larger Outdoor Oklahoma, consider sharing the sighting on free nature platforms like eBird and iNaturalist. Adding a photo to your observation can allow others help confirm the identification.