SPECIES

Chihuahuan Meadowlark Sturnella lilianae Scientific name definitions

Johanna K. Beam, Levi A. Jaster, William E. Jensen, and Wesley E. Lanyon
Version: 1.0 — Published October 25, 2022

Photos from this Account

Breeding adult
Nonbreeding adult/immature
Adult
Breeding adult
Breeding adult
Nonbreeding adult/immature
Breeding adult
Chihuahuan Meadowlark (subspecies lilianae).
Chihuahuan Meadowlark (subspecies lilianae).
Possible confusion species: Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna).

Eastern Meadowlark (subspecies magna) has blackish, not dark brownish, head stripes, and shows wider and less diffuse streaking on flanks.

Possible confusion species: Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna).

Eastern Meadowlark (subspecies argutula).

Chihuahuan Meadowlark (subspecies lilianae).
Possible confusion species: Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta).

Western Meadowlark (subspecies neglecta) has partly or entirely yellow malar region.

Possible confusion species: Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta).

Western Meadowlark (subspecies neglecta).

Juvenile Chihuahuan Meadowlark

Juvenile Plumage is characterized by upperparts that are often paler and mottled dark brown (rather than barred blackish), with buff terminal margins (including feather tips) to scapulars, and less-defined head patterns. Note also the filamentous structure of juvenile feathers, visible here on the neck and elsewhere.

Juvenile Chihuahuan Meadowlark

Fresh Juvenile Plumage can be washed buff. Note the uniformly fresh upperpart feathers that are distinctly fringed whitish to buff (including feather tips), the lack of distinct head patterning, and the lack of dark streaks to the flanks. The black "V" on the breast is replaced with brownish mottling. The more-extensive yellow coloration on this juvenile, along with apparent larger size, may indicate a male.

Juvenile Chihuahuan Meadowlark

This individual has likely commenced the Preformative Molt but most of the broadly pale-fringed and tipped juvenile upperpart feathers are still present. Note the weak juvenile outer primaries and rectrices, to be replaced during the complete Preformative Molt.

Formative or Definitive Basic female Chihuahuan Meadowlark (with Brewer's Blackbird)

Following the complete Preformative and Definitive Prebasic molts, the ages of meadowlarks are indistinguishable by plumage. In fall, fresh feathers are heavily veiled with buff, obscuring the yellow coloration and black V-mark on the underparts. The small size of this bird (in comparison with the blackbird) and relatively restricted and pale yellow to the lores and underparts indicate a female.

Formative or Definitive Basic female Chihuahuan Meadowlark

By December the buff veiling begins to wear off, revealing more distinct coloration and patterning. The paler and reduced amount of yellow in the lores and underparts indicates a female.

Formative or Definitive Basic female Chihuahuan Meadowlark

By April the buff fringing of fresh feathers has worn off, revealing darker and brighter coloring and patterns. The paler and reduced amount of yellow in the lores and underparts indicates a female.

Formative or Definitive Basic male Chihuahuan Meadowlark

Following the complete Preformative and Definitive Prebasic molts, the ages of meadowlarks are indistinguishable by plumage. In fall, fresh feathers are heavily veiled with buff, obscuring the yellow coloration and black V-mark on the underparts. The relatively extensive and bright yellow to the lores, throat, and underparts (given the buff fringing) indicates a male.

Formative or Definitive Basic Chihuahuan Meadowlark

Note that the pale fringing to the upperpart feathers does not include the tips, unlike juvenile feathers in these tracts. Note also the tail pattern, especially that of the third rectrix from the center (r3); the amount of brown edging to this feather is variable. The bright yellow in the lores suggests a male but this bird is not safely sexed by plumage as based on what's visible in this image.

Formative or Definitive Basic Chihuahuan Meadowlark

By April the buff fringing of fresh feathers has worn off, revealing darker and brighter coloring and patterns. The extensive and intense yellow in the lores and underparts indicates a male.

Chihuahuan Meadowlark undergoing Preformative Molt

The Preformative and Definitive Preabsic Molts are complete and typically commence with inner primaries and procede distally; here p1-p4 and new and p5 is likely being replaced. The patterns to the upperpart feathers and lack of streaking to the flanks are juvenile characters and indicate that this bird s undergoing the Preformative Molt.

Chihuahuan Meadowlark undergoing Definitive Prebasic Molt

This bird shows distal replacement from inner primaries, with p1 to p5 new, p6-p7 growing, and p8-p9 old (s2 on the bird's left wing may have been accidentally dropped again), tertials being replaced, and proximal replacement from outer secondaries, with s1 growing and s6-s5 yet unmolted. The sequence of rectrix molt may indicate distal replacement, with r1 new, r2-r5 dropped or growing, and r6 old on both sides of the tail.

Chihuahuan Meadowlark undergoing Definitive Prebasic Molt

This individual appears to show distal replacement among rectrices, r1-r4 (or r1-r3) being fully grown and the outer two visible rectrices on the left (r5-r6 or r4-r5 with r6 dropped) progressively shorter.

Lateral view showing head detail, tarsi and toes (subspecies lilianae).
Lateral view (subspecies lilianae).
Frontal view (subspecies lilianae).
Dorsal view (subspecies lilianae).
Lateral view (subspecies auropectoralis).
Frontal view (subspecies auropectoralis).
Dorsal view (subspecies auropectoralis).
Birds in their habitat; Arizona, United States.
Bird in its habitat; Arizona, United States.
Bird in its habitat; Jalisco, Mexico.
Bird feeding on grasshopper.
Bird with insects for nestlings.
Adult with food for nestlings: May, Arizona, United States.
Adult with food for nestlings.
Adult feeding fledgling.

Macaulay Library Photos for Chihuahuan Meadowlark

Top-rated photos submitted to the Macaulay Library via eBird. Note: Our content editors have not confirmed the species identification for these photos.

Recommended Citation

Beam, J. K., L. A. Jaster, W. E. Jensen, and W. E. Lanyon (2022). Chihuahuan Meadowlark (Sturnella lilianae), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (N. D. Sly, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.lilmea2.01