About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Colored Like No Other Bird in Michigan

Large numbers of Bobolinks pass through in Sep...Image via WikipediaMost backyard bird watchers aren’t familiar with the Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus). The female looks like a large sparrow while the male is the only American bird that is black underneath and white on the back for a showy spring breeding display. They are one of the few songbirds that undergo two complete molts each year. In the fall both the male and female have brown feathers.

Bobolink - femaleImage by TheMarvelousInNature.wordpress.com via Flickr

In Michigan their preferred habitats include prairies and meadows and they stay on marshes during migration where they eat mainly insects. Bobolinks are recognized for making one of the longest migrations in the western hemisphere. The trip south to the vast grasslands of southwestern Brazil, Paraguay, and northern Argentina can be over 6000 miles.

Approximate distribution of the Bobolink (Doli...Image via Wikipedia
Approximate distribution of the Bobolink 
Blue: breeding, Orange: wintering.
Each fall, they gather in large numbers in southern rice fields, where their habit of eating grain has earned them the name "ricebird." They are collected as food in Jamaica, where they are called “butter birds”--a commentary on how fat they are as they pass through on migration.

Once common as a source of food for the northern United States, their song, breeding plumage, and extraordinary migration also made the Bobolink an inspiration for the poetry like "Robert of Lincoln" by William Cullen Bryant (1794-1898), and "The Way to Know the Bobolink" by Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886).
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