The Eastern Meadowlark is, indeed, a bird of meadows, pastures, and even open pine forests, that can be found through much of eastern North America. But it is not a lark; nor is it closely related to the Common Starling – although its bill is much like a starling’s bill – slender, pointed, relatively long and only slightly curved. DNA and other characteristics clearly identify our meadowlark as a member of the all-American blackbird family. The brilliant yellow breast with a prominent black “V” extending down from its throat to its belly are merely adaptations that help this bird blend into its very open habitats by disrupting its outline, dissociating its head from its body.
During August through October Eastern Meadowlarks take on a different appearance as they molt both flight and body feathers and transition to a very dull plumage that helps them blend into the montage of dried grasses and weeds of a winter grassland. What’s different, however, is that their new feathers are just as bright or brighter than the old ones – only the bright portion of those feathers is hidden by dull and mottled tips of the new ones. Through the winter these new feathers wear as a result of abrasion with the dead grasses and weeds and by spring the camouflaging feather tips have worn away to reveal its spring and breeding colors.