The state bird of Nebraska is the western meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta. This large songbird was adopted as the state bird by a joint resolution of the Nebraska legislature on March 22, 1929. The western meadowlark is a common sight in the prairies and grasslands of North America. It can be readily identified by its yellow neck and chest, which is adorned with a distinctive black 'V'. The state bird of Nebraska is also prized for its flute-like, varied and multi-note song.
At maturity, the western meadowlark is about 8-11 inches (about 20-28 cm) in length and weighs about 3-4 ounces (about 85-113 g). The state bird of Nebraska has a long, sharply pointed bill, long legs and a short tail. Its head has black and white stripes, while the wings are mainly light brown with black markings. The cheek, neck and chest are all bright yellow, with a black 'V' highlighting the chest. Along its flanks, the western meadowlark's feathers are white with black markings.
Its nests are generally made from dried grass, built at ground level, and are woven into the vegetation of grasslands and untilled fields. The western meadowlark usually provides at least a partial grass covering for its nest, though some are completely enclosed and have a long entrance tunnel. Three to seven spotted white eggs are laid at a time and have an incubation period of around two weeks. The male usually has more than one mate at a time and plays a less involved role than the female in caring for the hatchlings.
The state bird of Nebraska is a ground forager and is particularly adapted to life on the prairie. It generally feeds off the surface, but can probe beneath with its long, sharp bill. This bird is omnivorous, though the majority of its diet consists of insects, worms and snails. Grain and weed seeds make up the remainder. In the winter months, feeding in flocks is common.
Natural predators of the western meadowlark include hawks, crows, coyotes and raccoons. Nesting in areas of high agricultural activity poses some threat to the state bird of Nebraska as well. A small decline in its population has been noted; however, the bird's numbers remain abundant throughout its natural range. The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) considers the western meadowlark to be a species at little risk of extinction, placing it in the category of least concern.