Hey guys, welcome back! And Happy St. Patrick’s Day if you celebrate that. Today is an interesting little bird; the bobolink. Like its relatives, the blackbirds, the bobolink is found in tall grass areas, often near water. The breeding plumage of the male is a unique pattern of black and white, with the white patches being on the back and the underparts entirely black. They also have a light yellow back of the head. Females kind of look like large, yellowish-brown sparrows as seen in the pic above.
Bobolinks nest in the northern half of the US, while spending their winters in southern South America, with some birds migrating over 12,500 miles! That long trip includes traveling directly over the Gulf of Mexico, as despite being found as far west as Washington state and British Columbia, they are not found in Mexico. They are in the blackbird family, and thus share similar habits and habitat. In what could be another episode of Bird Maury, female bobolink nests often contain the eggs of several different males.
Last time, I teased that this was a bird that maybe I didn’t see until years later. Well, here’s the story behind that. Many years ago while working in Central Park, I was birding in the Ravine, a wooded area in the north end of the park. I saw a bird that I didn’t know what it was at first. It was brown and streaky and had a lighter eyebrow. I consulted my guide and determined it was a female bobolink. Though there was something nagging at me about this call, I eBirded it as such. I had only been birding a few months at this point. The next day I saw what I was pretty sure was the same bird. This time I had other birders around. Although it took them a minute, they said it was a female rose-breasted grosbeak, which today I’d never confuse for a bobolink. I didn’t take the bobolink off my list at the time because naive me convinced myself that I couldn’t prove that was the same bird I had seen the day before. After that, I actually forgot about this until I actually saw a bunch for reals last fall. That’s when I nabbed the pic in this post. I really should go back and take bobolink off that list from years ago. So, that’s my bobolink story. Moral is, if you’re not 100% sure, don’t make the call. I’ve learned that and today if I’m unsure, I’ll either not eBird it at all, or put it in under the general genus. Speaking of needing to be sure of what something is before eBirding it, next up is the gray-cheeked thrush. See you all then!