The rowdy ones are in need of protection

Emily Dickinson referred to the Boblink as “The Rowdy of the Meadow” in her poem, The Bobolink is Gone, and it’s so true. Just one Bobolink can be chattering away in a hay field and it will sound like 20. I don’t remember these birds from the meadows and hayfields where I grew up and their song was quite unfamiliar to me when I moved here. The first time I heard one, I was pretty impressed seeing that only one bird, not a flock, was making all that noise. They populate the fields in our area during their nesting season, along with Red-winged Blackbirds and Western Meadowlarks. I’d never gotten a half-decent photo of one before getting the zoom lens.

Bobolink (male), May 24, 2011

Bobolinks are  now listed as a threatened species in Ontario and it’s estimated that their numbers have declined by 65% over the last 40 years (Government of Ontario, 2011). This decline is due in part to a loss of habitat and hay harvesting practices that coincide with their breeding and nesting period – which in Canada is typically from late May to mid-July (Government of Ontario, 2011; Deinlein, 1997). Bobolinks cover a lot of ground in their migration. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology reports that a round-trip for a Bobolink is approximately 20,000 kilometres or 12,500 miles, adding that an older Bobolink (having made this annual trip many times) would have traveled the (mind-boggling) equivalent of several times around the earth.


Cornell Lab of Ornithology. All About Birds: Bobolink Life History:

Deinlein (1997). Smithsonian National Zoological Park: Migratory Bird Center:

Government of Ontario (2011, April). Environmental Registry 011-2901. Amendment to the Ontario Regulation 242/08 (General) under the Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA) respecting Bobolink and establishment of an advisory group to support the development of a long term approach to Bobolink recovery:

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18 Responses to “The rowdy ones are in need of protection”
  1. Montucky says:

    I enjoyed seeing your photos. I’ve read of Bobolinks but have never seen or heard one. They’re very pretty birds!

  2. Meanderer says:

    I’d never heard of this species of very beautiful bird before. It is so sad that they are yet another species in decline. Many thanks for posting these wonderful photos and for the information.

  3. Donald says:

    i don’t think i have ever seen or heard one. will have to check and see if they ever visit maine.

  4. Sue J says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen even a picture of a Bobolink, much less seen one in the wild. thanks for sharing these beautiful images!

  5. sandy says:

    I have seen some here, out in the hayfield. No meadowlarks, though. I grew up with both , and was so glad to hear the joyful sound of the bobolink.

    You got some great shots!

  6. What wonderful photos- bobolinks are such interesting birds. Very informative!

  7. Heather says:

    Lovely images of one of my favourite grassland birds. I actually wasn’t aware of the Bobolink’s status and did some research as a result. Numbers in Manitoba are going down, but not as quickly a Ontario. I may be partly because our haying tends to occur a little later in the season and they have a better chance of getting a nest off. Still, when I was working of Brewer’s Blackbirds a little over 10 years ago, I had to chase down a farmer who was about to run over a nest with a thresher. I caught him in time and he went around, but most are unaware of the ecology of their fields.

    • Thanks for your informative comment, Heather. It sounds like farmers will be forced to at least delay haying in the years to come. It’s great you were able to protect that nest. I used to think of haying as a pretty harmless activity, but the threshers can end up killing a lot of wildlife.

  8. Barbara Rodgers says:

    If Emily Dickinson wrote about bobolinks they must be native to New England, too, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one before. But then again, I grew up in the woods, not near any fields where one would be more likely to spot them. What amazing shots you got with the zoom lens! Apparently they winter in the grasslands and marshes of Argentina – that’s an incredible trip for such a little bird! Thanks for sharing these delightful shots – in the first one it looks like he is looking right at the camera!

    • That’s true, they must be! Thanks Barbara! I like the idea of learning about bird migration patterns from great writers like Emily Dickinson. They really do cover a lot of ground. I grew up in a farming area a couple of hours from where I live now and never saw one there either. They seem to really favor particular areas/fields around here.

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