Brace Yourself For Bobolink Goodness

Well, since I've had such great luck getting shots of other birds when I try to photograph orioles, I thought I would go out for orioles yesterday at Mr. Neil's.

And instead of orioles, I got one of my all time favorite singers: a male bobolink--the coolest blackbird in North America! The field where our honeybees do most of their foraging is fallow this year making it a great nesting spot. A large flock of male bobolinks has been hanging out for the last week and a half. You may recall I attempted a photo when I first heard them May 13 (that was the start of my oriole luck).

This bird was skylarking around the field and bouncing from some telephone wires to the highest perch in the field which at this point was low vegetation. I took a broken branch out of the woods and set in the field and after a few minutes he landed. If you look at the above photo, you can see he is still molting. Look at the tail, two deck feathers in the center are just growing in. There's another one on the right creeping in as well.

Here he is mid song--you can see his little throat puffed out. I tried to find a sound file on the Internet so those who have never had the joy of listening to bobolink could hear it. I found a sound file at Whatbird. You'll have to scroll about halfway down the page to just above the range map. It's one of my all time favorite bird songs. I think I might go back this weekend and just sit out there for an hour taking in the bobolink song.

In this photo you can really see that it resembles a blackbird. Bobolinks are in the Icterid family that includes red-winged blackbirds, grackles, orioles, and cowbirds--the head shape and bill on the bobolink looks really similar to the brown-headed cowbird. Checking over at BNA Online, the bobolink was one of the first species in which multiple paternity (females laying a clutch of eggs sired by more than one male) was documented. I didn't see any female bobolinks, but considering how different they look from males, I may have just not paid attention.

And if you haven't noticed it in the earlier photos, check out the claws on the tips of those toes--they are really long. But I guess you need those if you are going to be clinging to long prairie grasses. If you've never had a chance to look at a bobolink, find out if they are in your state and go check them out. They really are a cool little bird.