Bobolink

 

Common Name:Bobolink

Class:Aves

Order:Passeriformes

Family:Icteridae

Genus:Dolichonyx

Species:Dolichonyx oryzivorus

Photo: M. Noonan

 

TAXONOMY

The Bobolink is a member of the Blackbird family, but with a more sparrow-like bill than other Blackbirds. Bobolinks are dichromatic which means that males and females have different colorations. During the breeding season, the male Bobolink has a prominent yellow on the back of his head, white scapulars, lower back and rump. The Bobolink is the only songbird who is solid black below and largely white above. This pattern makes the bird obvious in his surroundings where the black will stand out against the sky and the white is easy to spot on the ground. The female and the non-breeding male look very similar; they are straw colored with dark stripes on the crown and back. Otherwise, they look very sparrow-like. Bobolinks are 15-21 cm (6-8 in) in size with a  wingspan of  27 cm (11 in). They tend to weigh about 29-56 g (1.02-1.98 ounces).

Photo: M. Noonan

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 also consume plant material such as seeds, rice, oats, corn, and other small grains.

Photo: M. Noonan

BEHAVIOR

 

The Bobolink is polygymous, and a male will have several simultaneous pair bonds with multiple females. The males will display to multiple females with a circling flight, helicoptering over his territory chirping and whistling while flying. 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 for 11-13 days. The Bobolink usually lays one clutch a year, but have been known to rebuild nests and lay eggs if the first nest is lost. The young are able to leave the nest 10-14 days after they hatch.

 

Photo: M. Noonan

WHERE TO FIND THEM

 

The Bobolink can be seen in large fields with very tall grasses during the summer. Usually in very rural areas in fields that have been abandoned for some time. Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge is a good place to spot the Bobolink mainly because these grasslands are not mowed and are left fallow for wildlife.

 

Photo: M. Noonan

 

Birds of Western New York is brought to you by the Institute for the Study of Human-Animal Relations at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY.