Dolichonyx oryzivorus
Range Map

Like most members of this “Blackbird” clan, the Bobolink is in the family Icteridae. While the breeding range for this bird is in the northern half of the USA and some of southern Canada, they winter rather far south in the south central regions of South America. Prime breeding habitats are open grassy fields, especially hay fields, across North America.

The Bobolink is the only member of the genus Dolichonyx, and there are no subspecies recognised (i.e. they are monotypic).

No other American bird looks quite like the summer male Bobolink, with their jet-black front side, their broad white shoulders and rumps, and their bright peachy skull cap tilted to the back of their heads. I’ve yet to meet the more modestly attired females, the immature or non-breeding males of this species. Nothing had prepared me for the startlingly bold birds I met in Montana in 2015. I wasn’t looking for them during my stay with an old friend in the Bitterroot Valley, but such an unusual-looking bird as this was hard to ignore as they perched on the fence lines bordering the pastures I passed on my drive. Who could blame me for stopping to capture their images and admire their display postures?

In 2022, I took a very long trip through western North America that included stops as far north as the Canadian Yukon. During my last week in Canada, and later, in the Sandhills of Nebraska, I enjoyed the company of these birds again. The pictures I gathered weren’t as intimate as those I captured in Montana, but I was treated to a skylarking flight display in their native habitat, and a brief glimpse of a female of the species.

12 Photos

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