|Conservation status||Declining significantly in recent decades; loss of nesting habitat is a likely cause.|
|Family||Blackbirds and Orioles|
|Habitat||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.|
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.
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. Young: 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.
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.
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.
Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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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.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsFlight 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.
Learn more about this sound collection.
How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Bobolink
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.
Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.
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.