The state bird of Oregon is the western meadowlark, which can be found in places such as open fields, dessert grasslands, pastures and on top of fence posts in agricultural areas. It is a songbird with many different complex tunes in its repertoire. This bird is between 8.5 to 11 inches (20.32 to 27.94 centimeters) in length, with bright yellow plumage on its chest, marked by a dark V-shaped bib. Both the males and females have similar colorings.
During mating season, the male western meadowlarks employ several visual display methods to try and attract the attention of the females. They puff out their chests to better display their yellow plumage and flap their wings above their heads. Male western meadowlarks are polygamous because they normally have three female partners or mates at the same time. The females nest with the male within the male’s territory.
The state bird of Oregon constructs its nest out of dried grasses and bark, which are woven to blend in with the surrounding vegetation. The nests of western meadowlarks may be subjected to brood parasitism by the cowbird, which usually lays its own eggs in the nests of other birds. Some birds may remove the unwanted eggs or build a new nest altogether. Other species of birds may rear the offspring of the cowbirds together with theirs.
This bird is omnivorous, and its diet consists of spiders, snails, roadkill, grain, seeds, insects and worms. It forages for its food on the ground and underneath loose earth. A batch of eggs usually number between three and seven, having reddish spots against a white background. After the young hatch from their eggs, they grow to adulthood in only six short weeks.
The western meadowlark’s coloring helps it survive in its natural habitat. For instance, if it spots a predator while foraging for food in the ground, it will simply hunker down and remain still to hide its yellow chest and to blend in with the surrounding grass. Its natural predators include hawks, foxes, dogs, cats and skunks. Young western meadowlarks have the yellow plumage on their chests, but do not have the distinctive V-shaped dark mark until after their first molt.
The state bird of Oregon was chosen by Oregon school children in 1927 under the sponsorship of the Oregon Audubon Society. With no formal legislative action to adopt a state bird, Governor I.L. Patterson simply issued a proclamation naming the western meadowlark as the state bird of Oregon. The western meadow is also the state bird of other states: Wyoming, North Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Montana.