Bobolink Facts and Photos

Information about the Bird Bobolink

The bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus) is a small New World blackbird and the only member of the genus Dolichonyx.

The genus name Dolichonyx is from Ancient Greek dolikhos, "long", and onux, "claw". The specific oryzivorus is from Latin oryza, "rice", and vorare, "to devour"; an old name for this species is "Rice Bird". The English "Bobolink" is from Bob o' Lincoln, describing the call.
Adults are 16-18cm (6.3-7.1in) long with short finch-like bills. They weigh about 1oz (28g). Adult males are mostly black with creamy napes and white scapulars, lower backs, and rumps. Adult females are mostly light brown, although their coloring includes black streaks on the back and flanks, and dark stripes on the head; their wings and tails are darker. The collective name for a group of bobolinks is a chain.
The bobolink breeds in the summer in North America across much of southern Canada and the northern United States. It migrates long distances, wintering in southern South America in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay. One bird was tracked migrating 12,000mi (19,000km) over the course of the year, often flying long distances up to 1,100mi (1,800km) in a single day, then stopping to recuperate for days or weeks.
They often migrate in flocks, feeding on cultivated grains and rice, which leads to them being considered a pest by farmers in some areas. Although bobolinks migrate long distances, they have rarely been sighted in Europe-like many vagrants from the Americas, the overwhelming majority of records are from the British Isles.
The species has been known in the southern United States as the "reedbird," or the "ricebird" from their consumption of large amounts of the grain from rice fields in South Carolina and the Gulf States during their southward migration in the fall. One of the species' main migration routes is through Jamaica, where they're called "butter-birds" and at least historically were collected as food, having fattened up on the aforementioned rice.
Their breeding habitats are open grassy fields, especially hay fields, across North America. In high-quality habitats, males are often polygynous. Females lay five to six eggs in a cup-shaped nest, which is always situated on the ground and is usually well-hidden in dense vegetation. Both parents feed the young.
Bobolinks forage on or near the ground, and mainly eat seeds and insects.
Males sing bright, bubbly songs in flight.
The numbers of these birds are declining due to loss of habitat. Bobolinks are a species at risk in Nova Scotia, and throughout Canada. In Vermont, a 75% decline was noted between 1966 and 2007. Originally, they were found in tall grass prairie and other open areas with dense grass. Although hay fields are suitable nesting habitat, fields which are harvested early, or at multiple times, in a season may not allow sufficient time for young birds to fledge. Delaying hay harvests by just 1.5 weeks can improve bobolink survival by 20% This species increased in numbers when horses were the primary mode of transportation, requiring larger supplies of hay.
Emily Dickinson penned many poems about the bird. Edgar Allan Poe mentions the bird in "Landor's Cottage".
The bobolink is mentioned in the song Evelina by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg, from the musical Bloomer Girl:
The bird is also one of the many important ornithological references in Vladimir Nabokov's John Shade's poem "Pale Fire" in the novel of the same name.
Sophia Jewett ends her poem "An Exile's Garden" (1910) with a reference to a bobolink.
The bobolink is also mentioned in the film The Mouse on the Moon in connection with the fictional European microstate of Grand Fenwick, where oddly the bird is apparently common.
The bobolink is also mentioned in the musical Camelot. Words by Alan Jay Lerner.

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