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A photo of a Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus), male
Bobolink, Male

Bobolink

Dolichonyx oryzivorus

The bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus) is a small, migratory New World blackbird, distinguished as the sole member of its genus. Males are adorned in breeding plumage with a striking black underbody, a white back, and a rich, buffy nape. Females and non-breeding males are more subdued in color, with brownish feathers and dark streaks.

Identification Tips

Adult males in breeding plumage are unmistakable with their black bodies, white backs, and creamy napes. Females and non-breeding males are primarily light brown with darker streaks and a more finch-like bill. They measure between 5.9–8.3 inches in length, weigh 1.0–2.0 ounces, and have a wingspan of approximately 10.6 inches.

Habitat

Bobolinks favor open grassy fields, particularly hay fields, for their breeding grounds across North America.

Distribution

During the summer breeding season, bobolinks can be found across much of southern Canada and the northern United States. Come winter, they migrate to southern South America, with significant populations in Paraguay, Argentina, and Bolivia.

Behaviour

Bobolinks are known for their long migratory journeys, covering up to 12,000 miles annually. They often travel in flocks and are seen feeding on grains, including rice, which has historically led to their reputation as agricultural pests in some regions.

Song & Calls

The male bobolink's song is a cheerful and bubbly melody, often delivered in flight, which has been likened to the phrase "Bob o' Lincoln."

Breeding

Bobolinks nest on the ground in dense grasslands, where females lay five to six eggs. Both parents are involved in feeding the young. In high-quality habitats, males may exhibit polygyny.

Diet and Feeding

Their diet consists mainly of seeds and insects. They are particularly noted for their consumption of armyworms, providing natural pest control.

Conservation status

The bobolink is currently classified as Least Concern by the IUCN. However, populations are declining due to habitat loss and changes in agricultural practices. They are considered threatened in Canada and are at risk throughout their range.

Similar Species

While the male bobolink in breeding plumage is quite distinctive, females and non-breeding males may be confused with other sparrows or female blackbirds but can be differentiated by their unique coloration and patterns.

Media references

The bobolink has been immortalized in poetry and song, capturing the imagination of writers like Emily Dickinson and being mentioned in musicals such as "Camelot."

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