Listen to the Bubbly Jangling of a Bobolink's Song

“The happiest bird of our spring.”

Bobolink. Illustration: Emily Poole

This audio story is brought to you by BirdNote, a partner of the National Audubon Society, and is a special excerpt from the recently released anthology BirdNote: Chirps, Quirks, and Stories of 100 Birds from the Popular Public Radio ShowWe'll be sharing selections from the book all April. And remember, you can catch BirdNote episodes daily on public radio stations nationwide.


This is BirdNote!

 Washington Irving called the Bobolink “the happiest bird of our spring.” “His life seems all song and sunshine.” Emily Dickinson called the Bobolink “the rowdy of the meadow” for its bubbly, jangling song. 

 Bobolinks return to North America from the tropics each spring, having completed one of the longest migrations of any songbird in the Americas: roughly 6,000 miles.

 Bobolinks fly all the way from northern Argentina to the northern states and Canada. They cross all sorts of hazardous terrain and hundreds of miles of open water.

How do they accomplish this prodigious feat?

Bobolinks, like many birds, rely on cues from the stars and sun and landmarks on the earth to guide them. But they also have an ace up their sleeve. Bobolinks can sense the earth’s magnetic field. Their nasal tissues contain minute quantities of the mineral magnetite, providing the birds a kind of built-in compass. 

 Farmers who delay mowing their hayfields until mid-summer or later – after the young Bobolinks have fledged – help assure the future of these amazing birds. And the Bobolinks help the farmers by eating destructive insects and the seeds of weeds. 

Learn more at BirdNote.org. Today’s show brought to you by the Lufkin Family Foundation. I’m Michael Stein.


Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by A.A. Allen. Ambient recorded by W.L. Hershberger. 

Producer: John Kessler

Executive Producer: Chris Peterson

Narrator: Michael Stein

Written by Bob Sundstrom

© 2011 Tune In to Nature.org      May 2011

BirdNote: Chirps, Quirks, and Stories of 100 Birds from the Popular Radio Show, edited by Ellen Blackstone, illustrations by Emily Poole, Sasquatch Books, 205 pages, $22.95. Buy it online at Powells.

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