Long-tailed meadowlark (Sturnella loyca)

Adult male long-tailed meadowlark
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Long-tailed meadowlark fact file

Long-tailed meadowlark description

GenusSturnella (1)

In addition to having the longest tail, the aptly named long-tailed meadowlark is by far the largest of the seven species of New World blackbird in the genus Sturnella (2). The male has a brilliant red breast and is mostly blackish-brown above, while the female is considerably paler and more streaked, and has a much fainter pinkish tinge to the breast (2) (3) (4). Furthermore, although both sexes have a prominent stripe above the eye, the female’s is all white, while the male’s is red in front of the eye and white behind (2).

Length: 24-25.5 cm (2)

Long-tailed meadowlark biology

The long-tailed meadowlark forages on the ground for a variety insects and seeds (3). It is a conspicuous species that usually forms small flocks, except when breeding, and commonly uses trees, shrubs, poles and fences as perches (2). These perches, which are thought to be an essential component of this species’ habitat, are used for calling and singing (2) (3). As is typical of species in this noisy family (6), the long-tailed meadow lark’s song is loud and wheezy (2). Nests of the long-tailed meadowlark are known to be parasitized by the shiny cowbird, which lay their own eggs in the meadowlark’s nests (7) (8). This sometimes results in meadowlark adults unwittingly incubating the eggs of the shiny cowbird, and rearing its young (8).


Long-tailed meadowlark range

The long-tailed meadowlark occurs in Argentina, Chile, the Falklands Islands, and the South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (2) (5).


Long-tailed meadowlark habitat

Found in arid-grassy areas, especially with scattered scrub, and in pastures and cultivated meadows (2).


Long-tailed meadowlark status

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Long-tailed meadowlark threats

The long-tailed meadowlark has a large distribution and is not thought to be threatened overall (5).


Long-tailed meadowlark conservation

There are currently no conservation measures in place for the long-tailed meadowlark.

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

For information on the conservation of birds across the Americas see:

For more information on this and other bird species please see:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk


The act of keeping eggs warm so that development is possible.
In general, a relationship between two species in which one benefits at the expense of the other.


  1. IUCN Red List (May, 2009)
  2. Ridgely, R.S. and Tudor, G. (1989) The Birds of South America, Volume I: The Oscine Passerines: Jays, Swallows, Wrens, Thrushes and Allies, Vireos, Wood-warblers, Tanagers, Icterids and Finches. The University of Texas Press, Austin.
  3. Gochfeld, M. (1979) Interspecific territoriality in red-breasted meadowlarks and a method for estimating the mutuality of their participation. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 5: 159 - 170.
  4. Benites, P., Tubaro, P.L., Lijtmaer, D.A., Lougheed, S.C. and Eaton, M.D. (2007) Color differences among closely related species of Red-breasted Meadowlarks (Sturnella). Condor, 109: 605 - 616.
  5. BirdLife International (May, 2009)
  6. Burnie, D. (2001) Animal. Dorling Kindersley, London.
  7. Gochfeld, M. (1979) Brood parasite and host coevolution: interactions between shiny Cowbirds and two species of meadowlarks. American Naturalist, 113: 855 - 870.
  8. Fraga, R.M. (2002) Notes on new or rarely reported Shiny Cowbird hosts from Argentina. Journal of Field Ornithology, 73(2): 213 - 219.

Image credit

Adult male long-tailed meadowlark  
Adult male long-tailed meadowlark

© François Gohier / www.ardea.com

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