Bobolinks are a member of the Blackbird family. Breeding males are black with a buffy patch on the back of the head and white areas on their backs. Some refer to the pattern as a “reverse tuxedo”. As with their cousins, Redwing Blackbirds, the females look nothing like the males. They are mostly light brown with some darker brown striping. This coloration makes a lot of sense for a bird that nests in meadows where the tall grass browns as the summer progresses. Bobolinks are a long distance migrant. They breed in a broad band along the US-Canadian border. They fly across the Gulf of Mexico in the fall in order to winter in central South America, a journey of 12500 miles (20000 km).
These are a male and a female in flight. It is difficult to get a photograph of them on the ground since they stay in deep meadow grasses. The males do take flight quite often to patrol their space. Even when you don’t see them, you can hear their bubbly, almost robotic, call.
These photographs show more of the male’s “reverse tuxedo” color pattern.
When not in the air, Bobolinks spend their time in deep meadow grasses. The males often sit a bit higher to survey their territory.
But the females keep themselves deeper and closer to the nest. This photo captures a female bringing an insect to the nest. She will quickly blend into the surroundings and disappear from view.
These two males were doing a little chasing and a little posturing. I suspect that they were in a no-man’s land between their territories since the aggression levels were pretty low.
The field where these pictures were taken is owned by the town of Amesbury and used for recreational purposes. The grass is harvested for hay by a local farmer. Massachusetts Audubon pays the farmer to delay haying until the Bobolinks and Meadowlarks have finished breeding. The payment covers the reduction in the value of the hay that is incurred by the delay. The Audubon’s of Vermont and New Hampshire are also part of this effort in a three state area. It is a win-win for the farmers and the Bobolinks who face shrinking habitat.