Eastern Meadowlark Survey

Eastern Meadowlark © John Galluzo
Eastern Meadowlark © John Galluzo

Project Overview

Eastern Meadowlarks are in serious decline, both in Massachusetts and elsewhere in North America. As with the challenges addressed by The Bobolink Project, the intensive mowing schedules associated with modern farming activities are the biggest cause of meadowlark disappearance.

In order to better help this species, we need to know more about their status in Massachusetts. So, in early 2017, we launched a multi-year citizen science project to study Eastern Meadowlarks by collecting presence-absence data for the species at randomly selected sites throughout the Commonwealth. 

While meadowlarks do persist at a number of known sites across the state—particularly in the Connecticut River Valley and at agricultural fields in the Ipswich-Essex area—there are a lot of potential sites where they could be nesting. 

However, there are only a few of us and a lot of ground to cover! To get the information we need, it's critical that we get help from citizen scientists.  


How to Participate

→ On hiatus for 2020 ←

Project data can be easily entered through the Anecdata website on a computer or in the field on a mobile smartphone device. The surveys required are simple and quick to do—10 minutes tops!

We’ve provided our citizen scientist volunteers with "hotspots" where we specifically need a volunteer to do a meadowlark survey on three separate dates—with preferably at least 3 days in between each date—during the survey period. Many of these hotspots will likely not have Eastern Meadowlarks, but knowing where Eastern Meadowlarks are not is just as valuable for scientific analysis as knowing where Eastern Meadowlarks are.

If possible, we also ask that you record information about two other grassland bird species—Bobolinks and Grasshopper Sparrows. However, your main focus should always be Eastern Meadowlarks.

NOTE: Project is on hiatus for 2020 and not seeking volunteers for data collection at this time.


Results

Thank you for a successful third year!

Eastern Meadowlark on grass stalk © Shawn Carey
Eastern Meadowlark © Shawn Carey

The data collected through this project will provide valuable information about this species' current distribution in the Commonwealth, and will form the basis for a better assessment of meadowlark habitat requirements and future conservation needs. 

The results of this work will help us develop models for use in evaluating potential sites that have not been visited.

2019 Summary | April 10–June 15

144 sites

The survey's third year found meadowlarks at 16 new sites for the project, representing at least 21 birds. Volunteers at the other 133 sites (also new for this year) came up empty-handed. This is not to say that meadowlarks have disappeared from those 133 sites entirely. Rather, the 16 sites where meadowlarks were confirmed represent places where we didn't predict they would be.

Sites in 2017 were drawn from a geographic database of grasslands and open fields, and 2018 sites were all on properties owned by governments or land trusts. This year, we selected sites based on where meadowlarks had been documented in the first and second MA Breeding Bird Atlases. Among other things, this year's results reinforce the fact that many of these birds are not on land that is formally public or conserved.

2018 Summary | April 20–June 15

26 volunteers • 63 sites

In the second year, surveys focused on sites that had not been visited in 2017. These sites were selected because they appeared, based on aerial photographs, to support potential—but not necessarily ideal—meadowlark habitat. Volunteers found Eastern Meadowlarks at just two sites total, meaning they were present at only 3% of the sites visited.

2017 Summary | May 15–June 15

51 volunteers • 161 sites

In the first year, our volunteers surveyed a total of 161 sites in 88 towns from May 15–June 15. Somewhat unsurprisingly, Eastern Meadowlarks were present at only 7% of the sites visited. This is a species that very clearly seems to be in trouble in Massachusetts, and this basic data that our project participants collected will help us build a more compelling basis for conservation action in the state. Other species present at the sites were Bobolinks (at 40% of the sites visited) and Grasshopper Sparrows (at 11% of the sites). Our heartfelt thanks goes out to everyone who participated in our pilot year!


More Information

Eastern meadowlark © John Galluzzo, Mass Audubon
Eastern meadowlark © John Galluzzo, Mass Audubon
bobolink © Shawn Carey
bobolink © Shawn Carey
Grasshopper sparrow © Dominic Sherony, wikimedia
Grasshopper sparrow © Dominic Sherony, wikimedia
     

→ Not familiar with Eastern Meadowlarks?

Check out our quick guide and listen to their song.

→ Not familiar with Bobolinks?

Learn more about this species in our Breeding Bird Atlas and listen to their song.

→ Not familiar with Grasshopper Sparrows?

Learn more about this species in our Breeding Bird Atlas and listen to their song.


Questions?

Contact us at birdconservation@massaudubon.org with any questions you have.