Friday, 3 April 2015

B.O.T.D. Bobolink

Bobolink (Dolichonyx orysivorus)

Up from Brazil and Argentina come the bobolinks each spring, traveling in small flocks of smartly call males and sparrow drab females. They funnel up through Florida and on toward the North, feasting on dandelion seeds and filling the air with their bubbling conversations. These small flocks drop off on nesting grounds through the northern United States and southern Canada. They rear one brood of young and spend the rest of the summer bobbing about and going through a molt that leaves every bobolink wearing sparrow drab. Heading back south in the fall, they look like different birds - so much so that for years people thought they were.

They travel differently, too, forming mammoth flocks that feed on harvested grain fields and fallow land. For decades they swooped upon South Carolina rice plantations and grew as fat as little butterballs. And every fall they were killed by the tens of thousands to be sold and eaten as butter birds. So many were slaughtered that they have never recovered their vast numbers. But most of the rice fields are gone now, the birds are protected by laws, and most people know the autumn bitter birds are the springtime bobolinks that fill the air with their tinkling music.

Cornell Lab: Bobolink                                                                               Reader's Digest: Book of North American Birds