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Bobolinks Fledging and Preparing to Migrate

7-14-14 bobolinks2  234Between their striking black and white plumage and their long, bubbly song, male Bobolinks are hard to miss if they are inhabiting a field. The female’s plumage is more subtle, with lots of browns so that she blends in well when on her ground nest. The Bobolink’s most notable accomplishment is its annual migration between breeding (northern U.S. and southern Canada) and wintering (northern Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia) grounds — a round-trip distance of approximately 12,500 miles. According to Cornell’s Birds of North America Online, one female Bobolink known to be at least nine years old presumably made this trip annually, which would mean that in her lifetime she flew a distance equal to traveling 4.5 times around the earth at the equator.

Grassland birds such as Bobolinks, Eastern Meadowlarks, Upland Sandpipers and numerous sparrows, which have been in decline for decades, populate New England’s hay fields, meadows, and pastures. Many of these birds build their nests on the ground, raise young, and forage for insects and grains in summer months. If you own or manage a hayfield that hosts Bobolinks (or any other grassland species), consider delaying mowing until after mid- July to allow these birds the opportunity to fledge their young and get them ready for one of the longest migratory flights of any North American songbird. (Photo: male Bobolink on rock, female on grass.) (Thanks to Jeannie Killam and Terry Ross for photo op.)

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10 responses

  1. Jeffrey Mazur

    Hi Mary,

    Thanks for all of your terrific posts! I am not sure if these photos of a crab spider are of high enough quality ( I took them with my phone) but it was amazing to see the spider with a bee in its grasp! Feel free to use it if you would like.

    Jeffrey Mazur
    Sent from my iPhone

    July 14, 2014 at 11:00 am

    • Hi Jeffrey,
      I’m afraid WordPress doesn’t allow photos to come through, but could you email them to me at ? I would love to see them!

      July 14, 2014 at 6:29 pm

  2. Anna Bannon

    Just love knowing how far our Bobolinks will be travelling shortly! They nest in our meadows and the hayfields nearby, and yes, we do wait for them before mowing in late July. These birds have a definite yellow cast to their markings: I remember remarking to myself earlier in the summer that it was as though they were designed to blend in with the dandelions.

    July 14, 2014 at 12:40 pm

    • Anna Bannon

      It’s the crown that’s yellow around here, and shaped like a flower-head.

      July 14, 2014 at 5:21 pm

      • Here, too, in certain light!

        July 14, 2014 at 6:28 pm

  3. So beautiful.

    July 14, 2014 at 5:11 pm

  4. Stephen Maddock


    We have had bobolinks in our 23 acre field ever since we moved to Lyme, NH, 28 years ago and we always wait until late July or early August to mow. Unfortunately the number of bobolinks seem to be decreasing each year and we have not seen any meadowlarks for many years. I know the farmer who mows the field would like to cut the hay much earlier but we won’t let him. Of course the quality of the hay is less by waiting that long, but we’re more concerned about the bobolinks. It’s a great pleasure to hear their song every spring!

    Thanks for your post. I’m not sure many people understand the nesting habits of bobolinks.

    Steve Maddock

    July 16, 2014 at 1:13 am

    • I’m so grateful there are people like you who do understand! Thanks, Steve.

      July 16, 2014 at 1:07 pm

  5. I love their call, like burbling water. There are a few fields around here that delay cutting their hay. It always pains me when I see a June cutting, as I know there are probably young that are sacrificed, which the crows won’t let go to waste, however.

    July 16, 2014 at 3:15 am

    • I knew you’d be tuned in to this, Eliza!

      July 16, 2014 at 1:07 pm

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