Species At Risk

Bobolink

(Dolichonyx oryzivorus)

Threatened

Bobolink

Description

The Bobolink is a medium sized songbird found in grasslands and hayfields. In their summer breeding season, male Bobolinks are black with a white back and yellow collar. By late summer, males lose their breeding plumage to resemble the female’s tan colour with black stripes.

Bobolinks spend much of their time out of sight on the ground feeding on insects and seeds. They seem to appear out of nowhere and can be spotted flying in the sky or over the tops of vegetation singing a bubbling musical song.

Range

The Bobolink breeds across North America. In Ontario, it is widely distributed throughout most of the province south of the boreal forest, although it may be found in the north where suitable habitat exists.

Habitat

Historically, Bobolinks lived in North American tallgrass prairie and other open meadows. With the clearing of native prairies, Bobolinks moved to living in hayfields.

Bobolinks often build their small nests on the ground in dense grasses. Both parents usually tend to their young, sometimes with a third Bobolink helping.

Threats

Bobolink populations have declined considerably over the past half century. As a wide ranging species that migrates in and out of Ontario, there are likely several causes for this decline, and we need to know more about the threats to Bobolink in this province. Along their migration route and in their wintering areas in South America, they are considered a pest of grain crops.

Mowing of hay during the breeding period may inadvertently kill and disturb nesting adults and young birds and destroy eggs and nests. Cutting hay in early to mid July coincides with the time that young birds are in the nest and are not able to fly. In addition, the quality of Bobolink nesting habitat has likely declined over time due to modern hay production practices such as earlier maturing seed mixtures and shorter crop rotation cycles.

Protection

The Bobolink is threatened and receives species protection under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act. General habitat protection also protects the species’ habitat from damage and destruction where they are known to occur. A recovery strategy and a species-specific habitat regulation are being developed.

What You Can Do to Help the Bobolink

  • Volunteer with your local nature club or provincial park to participate in surveys or stewardship work focused on species at risk.
  • As with all wildlife, don’t disturb or harass the birds or nesting sites. Be respectful and observe from a distance.
  • The Ministry of Natural Resources tracks species at risk such as the Bobolink. You can use a handy online form to report your sightings to the Natural Heritage Information Centre. Photographs with specific locations or mapping coordinates are always helpful. nhic.mnr.gov.on.ca
  • Report any illegal activity related to plants and wildlife to 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667).
  • There is a program geared to eligible farms registered under the Canada-Ontario Environmental Farm Plan to encourage greater protection and conservation of habitat for species at risk. For more information, visit: www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/environment/efp/efp.htm.
  • Private land owners have a very important role to play in species recovery. If you find a Bobolink on your property, you may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats.
  • Bird Studies Canada is working to advance the understanding, appreciation and conservation of wild birds and their habitat in Ontario and elsewhere. For more information on how you can help, visit: www.bsc-eoc.org.

Did you know?

Bobolinks undertake one of the longest annual migrations of any North American songbird, making a round trip of approximately 20,000 km to Argentina and back.

Did you know?

During migration, Bobolinks have been known to travel up to 1,800 km in a single day.

Did you know?

Bobolinks can be beneficial in hayfields since they eat large numbers of insects that could otherwise be harmful to crops.


The Endangered Species Act


Contact your local ministry office


Often the best source of local information on species at risk is your nearest ministry office. Call with your questions or concerns.