Monday, August 30, 2010

"Ricebird", "Skunk Bird", Bobolink

This is the view we often get of a bobolink if we're lucky. Maybe even a look at one sitting in a low shrub out in the middle of a prairie. Males are easy to ID from a distance because of their unique color pattern. The white on the back gave it the name "skunk bird" years ago. The huge flocks that were found out in grain fields as they migrated to South America gave it the name "ricebird" but nowadays we know it as the Bobolink.

Every once in a while we are lucky to net one or two on their breeding territories, especially if we are able to put a net up near a males favorite perch. This summer we have handled 3 or 4 and they are strikingly beautiful in the hand. They are a member of the Blackbird family (Icteridae) and, like many grassland birds, are showing a serious decline in their numbers.

They are a true neotropical migrant and make a long journey from the prairies of the Great Plains to the pampas of South America and back every year. Their fidelity to their breeding territory is amazing. A male banded by my friend Mark in 2008 was caught in 2009 on the same little hill in a grassland almost exactly one year to the day of its first capture.

A wonderful bird to both see and hear every spring in the prairies of Minnesota.


Brooks Rownd said...

"ricebird" seems to be a fairly generic bird term. That's what they call nutmeg mannikins (AKA scaly-breasted munia) here.

Jessi said...

We see bobolinks in the Southern Minnesota prairies when we ride horses. Today we saw two or three males, and their songs are beautiful as they fly and call out. One of my favorite things to look forward to during May! I believe it was in February or early March of this year that we also saw a Lazuli Bunting while riding, in a small forest with tall straight trees. I wasn't aware the Lazuli Bunting was ever in this area, but I am now looking forward to seeing if I can cross paths with one again next year. Gorgeous when unexpected, like the fuzzy bright blue spots on those huge black butterflies at the Sertoma house in Sioux Falls, but in a gray and darker gray treed area under a gray sky with snow all over the ground. Lots of rose-breasted grosbeaks, Baltimore orioles and goldfinches this year. And one of my favorite views - red-headed woodpeckers! Love them.

Very diverse place, Minnesota!