bobolink bŏbˈəlĭngkˌ [key], common name in the N United States and Canada for an American songbird, Dolichonyx oryzivorus, related to the blackbird and the oriole, belonging to the family Icteridae. In spring the plumage of the male is black except for the white shoulders and lower back and the buff nape. After the breeding season the male assumes yellowish, brown-streaked plumage like that of the female, and his former voluble singing is reduced to a single call note. Bobolinks winter in South America; in Jamaica they are called butter birds. In the north they are insectivorous, but they may feed on rice crops during migration in the south. They have been known to gorge themselves in the eastern wild rice marshes and in cultivated fields in South Carolina and Georgia, becoming so fat that they used to be hunted as game birds. Because of these feeding habits they did serious damage to crops as they migrated, and they were called rice birds or reed birds. Bobolinks are now a protected species and are no longer hunted. Cup-shaped nests are built by the female in grassy fields. Polygamy occurs, but monogamy is more common. Bobolinks are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Passeriformes, family Icteridae.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Vertebrate Zoology