Adult male Bobolink.
Today I got out birding in Kennebec County, Maine. I visited a few places, and I’ll make a post later about my morning birding, but for me the highlight of the day was finding a nice population of breeding Bobolink. Bobolinks are a very unusual species in North America. They seem like an upside down passerine, dark above and light below. They were one of the first species documented to be polygamous, with females having a clutch with multiple male sires. The Bobolink is an extraordinary migrant, breeding in the northern parts of temperate North America, and migrating over 20,000 Kilometers to as far south as Argentina. In addition, they make an extended layover in Venezuela prior to continuing south. Males as old as 10 years have been documented, meaning some Bobolink have flown more than five trips around the earth at the equator in distance.
In addition male Bobolink are highly visible and fun to watch on the breeding grounds. They fly up above the fields they breed in, do a fluttery display flight while singing loudly, and settle back down to perch. Females are much less dramatically colored, so there is a high degree of sexual dimorphism.
Bobolinks are also one of few species with two complete molts a year. Most birds have a complete molt after breeding season where they replace all of their feathers. Many birds replace some of their feathers before breeding season into what is called an alternate plumage (or breeding plumage). Bobolinks replace all of their feathers, including their flight feathers on the wings and tail twice a year. It is hypothesized that this may be due to both their very long migration and that they live in dense tall grass vegetation that may lead to extensive flight feather wear.
Anyway, even to a non-birder these guys are beautiful and worth making a visit to a large tall-grass field in their breeding season (May – August) if you are in their breeding range
Until next time, good birding. Steem on!
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