Eastern Meadowlark

Representing Iowa’s tallgrass prairies, one of the most imperiled habitat types in North America, the Eastern Meadowlark is a species of conservation concern in Iowa. Restoring grassland areas in Iowa will help keep this colorful, sparrow-like bird around for generations.

More information

See the Eastern Meadowlark's profile on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website.

Photo credits

Cover photo: By Alan Schmierer via Flickr

Collage Photo (above): By Richard Crossley (Richard Crossley) CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons



I woke up this morning
with a little tiny hangover & thought, oh
it's meadowlark day.

I'm on my way
and already late.
The latter is for me
a not unusual condition.
I'm too hooked into the present
I think
to give any of it up
to the next event on the schedule.
The car skates along the gravel road
leaving a cloud of dust
to settle over the early July fields
and the ditches rich with day lilies.
I come to an intersection
and actually stop for once.
An eastern meadowlark
perched atop the stop sign
not ten feet from my car
draws my attention.
I sit there
engine idling
one minute, two,
waiting with the bird
as the car's dusty wake
catches up to us.
And then
the bird lifts its beak
and stretches toward the sky
to release its song.
Its yellow throat and breast
as it unleashes a line
of pure liquidy prairie melody –
that's my cue to continue
on my way, late again.

Alone on a telephone wire
the meadowlark sings a song
of grasslands along the road.
On a fence post it sings
at the edge of a family farm
of the land it knows.
This yellow-breasted beauty
perched on a wire in the morning
bears the light of the sun.

I’d like to touch your bright, yellow feathers but that might scare you.

So I’ll tickle you from afar —
from my NYC perch.

All this time I thought I was 
hearing a meadowlark sing 
I was really hearing a starling 
imitating a robot 
imitating a meadowlark.

(Postcard from an Eastern Meadowlark)

you find my beak too sharp 
my song too sad and slow

you keep your acres neat 
those grasses have to go

they love me in Brazil 
they covet yellow so

along the verge there’s grass
they let the edges grow

“discover, discover, perform” —Walt Whitman

I think of the farmer
who feels the sun in his hands
and goes to his wife,
and of all the things he has learned.

How he might hear a bird
at the edge of a field
and go there and become 
the meadowlark.

North side, east side,
Meadowlark wears the crown,
Yeah, he's the king around town.
Struts and feeds, livin’ large, got his
Star-shoe shimmy/shuffle down.

On buttes, pinnacles, prairies and trees
Meadowlark sings
His volatile history.
Who remembers
Kangaroo Emu?
Sunshine Duck?
Purple Monkey Seagull?
Laugh, Meadowlark, laugh.
You don’t care at all.

Meadowlark drives ‘em wild,
His star-shine shimmy/shuffle smile.
Flippin’ the bird and
Flapping a passel of flatland flatworms,
He’s tough with no gun,
Unruled, curly-tongued,
Unfurling a swirl of
Smooth veronicas.

Meadow lark..:-) oh meadow lark..sing me your song..I love it as much as Summer's day is long.....

How must i live to be happy as a lark? 
Not walking on fences
Perhaps a sharper nose
Rising early to score the fattest grubs
Or, really, instinctively, throwing back my head to trumpet my earthsong in full blazing yellow throated glory, happy as a lark.

went to the meadow
on a lark
perched on a post
pretending to play the flute
yellow eye browed songstress
warning grasshoppers to lay low
or get got

when we returned to the prairie 
we wrapped the grasses around our 
to scent our skin with their sweetness
the earth’s heady dampness grounded 
us and de-saccharinized our senses

the meadowlark posted up and sang its 
soul on high
beak unhinged to its maximum
his black V necklace imprinted upon our 
minds like an implicit memory
the prairie chickens resumed their martial 
sidestepping in quick bursts of height
clashing claws locked up in the fight to 
father new generations

in the hedges sparrows bounced from 
branch to branch
trying to frustrate the kestrel’s plan for an 
easy dinner
the wind--always the wind—rustling and 
didn’t fluster the meadow vole
who swam with ease through
tunnels and trenches
elaborate as worm holes
the pond, busy with geese and ducks, 
the swans trumpeting and debating 
when to push south
the muskrat fortified his hut with freshly 
torn branches
I watched him engineer calculations and 

I forgot where I was standing
as I sank calf deep into cold mud
rising above my boot cuffs

it matters not at all
to be stuck in prairie earth 
it’s all I can hope for
to bottle up the scents and sounds
and carry them with me
wherever I go

hip flask of prairie
to drink
on slow lonely nights of winter