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North Dakota State Bird - Western Meadowlark

The official state bird of North Dakota
This article was written by EB React on 26/10/2023

Why the Western Meadowlark is North Dakota's State Bird

Also learn about the history of the North Dakota flag
Discover other symbol, the North Dakota state flower

The Symbolism Behind the Choice

The Western Meadowlark was designated as North Dakota's state bird in 1947, and the choice was laden with symbolism. The selection was more than just ornithological; it was a reflection of the bird's characteristics mirroring the state's spirit. Known for its distinct melodious song, the Western Meadowlark embodies North Dakota's cultural and natural essence. This cheerful songbird with its vibrant plumage captures the optimism and vitality that North Dakotans hold dear. Its resilience in the face of harsh prairie conditions also symbolizes the state's tenacity and perseverance.

Legislative History

The legislative history of the Western Meadowlark as North Dakota's state bird is a fascinating journey. In 1947, the Western Meadowlark was officially designated as the state bird through Senate Bill 255. North Dakota recognized the bird for its melodious song and cultural significance.

The decision resonated with North Dakotans, making the Western Meadowlark an enduring symbol of the state. Over the years, this legislative act has reinforced the bond between the bird and North Dakota's identity, emphasizing the importance of wildlife in our shared heritage.

Physical Characteristics

Appearance and Plumage

The appearance and plumage of the Western Meadowlark are truly captivating. These birds boast striking features, with a length of approximately 8.5 inches and a wingspan of about 15 inches. Their signature bright yellow chest, adorned with a distinct black "V" marking, is a defining characteristic. Additionally, their back feathers are beautifully patterned with intricate brown streaks. It's no wonder that their vibrant appearance has made them an iconic symbol of North Dakota, adding a touch of color to the state's natural landscapes.


The vocalizations of the state bird are a unique and enchanting aspect of this beautiful bird's behavior. These birds are known for their melodious songs, which consist of a series of flute-like whistles and warbles. What's intriguing is that each meadowlark has its own distinct song, making it possible to identify individual birds by their vocal patterns. During the breeding season, these songs are used to attract mates and establish territory. They're also a source of joy for birdwatchers, who relish the melodic serenades of the Western Meadowlark in North Dakota's open landscapes.

Interesting Facts about this species

Diet and Feeding Habits

The Western Meadowlark's diet and feeding habits are truly fascinating. These birds are omnivores, primarily dining on a variety of insects like grasshoppers, caterpillars, and beetles. But that's not all; they also enjoy seeds, grains, and even some fruits. With about 80% of their diet consisting of insects, they play a valuable role in keeping insect populations in check. During breeding season, they might incorporate more seeds and plant materials into their diet. The Western Meadowlark's adaptability in food choices ensures their survival and makes them a remarkable species in North Dakota's ecosystem.

Mating and Nesting Behavior

The mating and nesting behavior of this species is a fascinating aspect of its life cycle. These beautiful birds typically start looking for mates during the early spring, with males showcasing their vibrant plumage and singing to attract females. Nest construction is a joint effort, with both partners contributing to building a cozy, cup-shaped nest on the ground, often hidden in tall grass. They usually lay around 3-6 eggs, and both parents share incubation duties. This cooperative approach to nesting is just one of the many intriguing facets of the Western Meadowlark's life.

Migration Patterns

The North Dakota bird, showcases fascinating migration patterns. Every spring, these enchanting songbirds embark on a journey, covering around 1500 miles. They migrate from their wintering grounds in the southern United States to North Dakota, eager to nest and raise their young. The return trip in the fall is equally awe-inspiring as they head back to warmer climates. This remarkable migration not only demonstrates the bird's adaptability but also highlights North Dakota's role in preserving this beautiful species and its natural habitats.

The Western Meadowlark in North Dakota's Culture

Art and Literature

North Dakota's state bird, the Western Meadowlark, has inspired numerous works of art and literature. In paintings, its vibrant plumage and melodious songs are often depicted, capturing the essence of the state's natural beauty. Writers have penned verses celebrating the meadowlark's sweet melodies, infusing the state's poetry with its charm. This bird's presence in North Dakota's culture transcends its physical form, symbolizing the region's connection to the untamed wilderness. It's a testament to how the beauty of nature can find expression in human creativity.

State Symbols

The North Dakota Official State Bird holds a special place as one of the state's official symbols. Chosen in 1947, the Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta) represents the spirit and beauty of North Dakota. With its vibrant song and distinctive appearance, it's no wonder this bird was selected. The meadowlark's cheerful call can be heard throughout the state's grasslands and prairies, making it a fitting symbol for North Dakota's natural splendor. It's a testament to the importance of preserving and celebrating the unique wildlife that defines this great state.

EB React / Editor

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