At a Glance

Fluttering over meadows and hayfields in summer, the male Bobolink delivers a bubbling, tinkling song which, loosely interpreted, gives the species its name. The male is unmistakable in spring finery, but before fall migration he molts into a striped brown appearance like that of the female. Bobolinks in this plumage were once known as 'ricebirds' in the South, where they occasionally used to cause serious damage in the ricefields.
Blackbirds and Orioles, Perching Birds
Low Concern
Fields, Meadows, and Grasslands, Freshwater Wetlands, Saltwater Wetlands, Shrublands, Savannas, and Thickets
California, Eastern Canada, Florida, Great Lakes, Mid Atlantic, New England, Northwest, Plains, Rocky Mountains, Southeast, Southwest, Texas, Western Canada
Direct Flight, Flap/Glide, Hovering

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

Migrates in flocks. A long-distance migrant, wintering in southern South America, traveling mostly via Florida and the West Indies, with few occurring in Mexico or Central America.


7" (18 cm). Spring/summer male unmistakable, black below with much white on back, yellow on nape. In late summer he molts to pattern like female and young's: buffy, streaky, with black stripes on crown. Compare to sparrows.
About the size of a Sparrow, About the size of a Robin
Black, Brown, Tan, White, Yellow
Wing Shape
Tail Shape
Multi-pointed, Rounded

Songs and Calls

Flight song is a series of joyous, bubbling, tumbling, gurgling phrases with each note on a different pitch. Call a soft pink, often heard on migration.
Call Pattern
Complex, Falling, Undulating
Call Type
Buzz, Chirp/Chip, Trill


Hayfields, meadows. In migration, marshes. Original prime breeding areas were damp meadows and natural prairies with dense growth of grass and weeds and a few low bushes. Such habitats still favored but hard to find, and today most Bobolinks in eastern United States nest in hayfields. Migrants stop over in fields and marshes, often feeding in rice fields.



5-6, sometimes 4-7. Grayish to pale reddish brown, heavily blotched with brown and lavender. Incubation is by female only, about 11-13 days.


Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave the nest about 8-14 days after hatching, generally before they are able to fly. 1 brood per year.

Feeding Behavior

Forages for insects and seeds both on the ground and while perched up in grass and weed stalks. Except when nesting, usually forages in flocks.


Mostly insects and seeds. Majority of summer diet is insects, including beetles, grasshoppers, caterpillars, wasps, ants, and many others, also spiders and millipedes. Also eats many seeds of weeds, grasses, and grains. May feed more heavily on grain during migration, and in former times caused much damage in southern rice fields. In winter in the tropics, may also eat some berries.


Males arrive before females on nesting grounds, and display by flying over fields with shallow fluttering wingbeats while singing. In courtship on the ground, male spreads tail, droops wings, points bill down so that yellow nape is prominent. Nest: Placed on the ground (or rarely just above it), well hidden among dense grass and weeds. Typical ground nest is a slight depression holding a shallow open cup of grass and weed stems, lined with finer grasses.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

Declining significantly in recent decades; loss of nesting habitat is a likely cause.

Climate Map

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Bobolink. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.

Climate Threats Facing the Bobolink

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.

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