Did you know that bobolinks have the longest migration of any North American songbird? Every year, they travel an impressive 20,000 kilometres between their wintering grounds in South America, and their breeding grounds in southern Canada and the US. To navigate between their two seasonal homes, Bobolinks use a built-in compass! Bristles in their nasal cavity contain iron oxide, which helps them to orient themselves with the Earth's magnetic field!
Bobolinks are closely related to black birds, orioles, and meadowlarks. They inhabit grassy fields, meadows, and prairies. In June, females lay their eggs in nests built in the long grass, nestled in hollows in the ground, often at the base of taller plants which provide some shelter.
Breeding males (pictured above) have unique coloration, and are the only North American birds to have a white back and black belly (a so-called backwards tuxedo). Females (pictured below), however, look very different from the males and are mostly yellow with black stripes. To attract mates, male Bobolinks fly above their breeding territory, presenting aerial displays and singing a warbling, bubbly song.
Unfortunately, Bobolinks are considered threatened throughout Canada, and their numbers have declined significantly since the 1960s due to habitat loss and fragmentation, grazing and trampling by livestock, and pesticide exposure. A great deal of the Bobolink's habitat in BC is found on private land, so land owners are highly encouraged to help with Bobolink conservation! We can help to conserve the Bobolink by postponing the harvest of hay fields until late July when their nesting season has ended, and by protecting important habitats such as marshlands and meadows.