Bobolink

Common Name: Bobolink

Class:  Aves

Order: Passeriformes

Family: Icteridae

Genus: Dolichonyx

Species: Dolichonyx oryzivorus

photo M. Noonan

Taxonomy/Description

The Bobolink is a member of the blackbird family, but with a more sparrow-like bill than other blackbirds. The birds of the family Icteridae are dichromatic, meaning the male and the female look very different. During breeding, the male Bobolink has a prominent yellow on the back of his head, white scapulars, lower back and rump. The bobolink is special in this because he is the only songbird who is solid black below and largely white above. The female and the off-breeding season male look very similar; they are straw colored with dark stripes on the crown and back. Otherwise, they look very sparrow-like. Size: 15-21 cm (6-8 in) Wingspan: 27 cm (11 in) Weight: 29-56 g (1.02-1.98 ounces)

Habitat/Diet

The Bobolink is found mainly in the tall grasslands of the northern United States and Canada during the breeding season. They are commonly found in hay fields as well. Their population is declining, however, because early mowing of these hay fields destroys nests. The Bobolink is extraordinary in that they migrate to the vast grasslands of southwestern Brazil, Paraguay, and northern Argentina during the months of November through March. The Bobolink feeds on a variety of larval and adult insects and spiders. They are also a fan of seeds, rice, oats, corn, and other small grains.

photo M. Noonan

Behavior/Reproduction

The Bobolink is polygymous, and a male will have several simultaneous pair bonds with multiple females. The female will make her nest on the ground, the outer wall composed of dead grass and the inside lining of fine grass or sedges. A clutch size is usually 4-6 eggs. The eggs are usually a pale reddish-brown with irregular dark splotches. The female Bobolink will incubate these eggs from 11-13 days. 10-14 days after hatching, the babies are strong enough to leave the nest. The Bobolink usually lays one clutch a year, but have been known to rebuild nests and lay eggs if the first nest is lost.

Where to see them in WNY

The Bobolink can be seen in fields with very tall grasses. Usually in very rural areas. Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge is a good place to spot one.

photo M. Noonan

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