Also Known as Bob-Lincoln, Ricebird or Boblink

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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 Europe.

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.

Bobolink Flocks

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.


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