Bobolink, Bob-Lincoln and Boblink are names given to what is commonly
called the Ricebird (Dolichonyx oryzivorus) in North America, one
of the best-known birds of the USA, and valued for its pleasant song.
The Bobolink is a prairie bird 18 to 20 centimeters in length. It is performs
vast migrations, covering distances between 12000 and 18000 (sometimes
also up to 20000) kilometers, breeding as high as latitude 54o
North, and in winter visiting the Antilles and Central and South America
as far as Paraguay. These great distances are attained by the bird
using its fat reserves. They also occur as rare guests in Western
Appearance of the Bobolink
Adult Bobolinks have a short black finch-like bill.
Females have a light brown plumage, with black strips on the back and at
the flanks. On the head are dark grey to black strips; the wings and the
tail are somewhat darker than the remaining plumage. Young Bobolinks have
a similar feather pattern.
The males have a black plumage with white buttocks
and white strip on the wings. They have a characteristic cream-colored
to yellow plumages at the neck and at the back of the head. In winter their
plumage is similar to the females.
Nest and Bobolink Chicks
The nest is quite flat and built on the ground , normally
in thick vegetation. The clutch of eggs usually numbers 4 to 6, which are
hatched in approximately 13 days. Both parents participate in the raising
of the chicks, who learn to fly after 10 to 14 days.
The Bobolink sometimes invade rice fields (among other
things) in large flocks and cause considerable damages to much annoyance
of farmers. In former times they were killed in North America by the thousand
and used as food. The Bobolink was known for its pleasant flavour
when eaten, in which respect it was reported by 19th century writers to
equal if not surpass the famed ORTOLAN. Its good qualities were described
at length by Alexander Wilson, Nuttall, Audubon, and other old writers
on North-American ornithology.
Populations of Bobolink were strongly reduced since
1900 in North America, since many farms were given up and former meadows
and fields became forests. In addition the harvests which use much more
modern machinery compared to former times, result in many young birds,
who are not yet able to fly, not having chance of survival. |The
Bobolink was most numerous at the end of the 19th Century, when horses
were used for harvesting, extensive hay fields existed which provided the
birds with nutrition.
A different picture is offered in South America.
By the existence of many rice fields, the birds are still quite numerous
there compared to North America. Sadly in South America they are
still killed today or sold as cage birds.