Birds - The Bobolink
( Originally Published 1904 )
(Dolichonyx oryzivorus) Blackbird family
Called also: REEDBIRD; MAYBIRD; MEADOW-BIRD; AMERICAN ORTOLAN; BUTTER-BIRD ; SKUNK BLACKBIRD
Length—7 inches. A trifle larger than the English sparrow.
Male—In spring plumage : black, with light-yellow patch on upper neck, also on edges of wings and tail feathers. Rump and upper wings splashed with white. Middle of back streaked with pale buff. Tail feathers have pointed tips. In autumn plumage, resembles female.
Female—Dull yellow-brown, with light and dark dashes on back, wings, and tail. Two decided dark stripes on top of head.
Range—North America, from eastern coast to western prairies. Migrates in early autumn to Southern States, and in winter to South America and West Indies.
Migrations—Early May. From August to October. Common summer resident.
Perhaps none of our birds have so fitted into song and story as the bobolink. Unlike a good child, who should "be seen and not heard," he is heard more frequently than seen. Very shy, of peering eyes, he keeps well out of sight in the meadow grass before entrancing our listening ears. The bobolink never soars like the lark, as the poets would have us believe, but generally sings on the wing, flying with a peculiar self-conscious flight horizontally thirty or forty feet above the meadow grass. He also sings perched upon the fence or tuft of grass. He is one of the greatest poseurs among the birds.
In spring and early summer the bobolinks respond to every poet's effort to imitate their notes. Dignified ` Robert of Lincoln' is telling his name," says one; "Spink, spank, spink," an-other hears him say. But best of all are Wilson Flagg's lines:
. . . "Now they rise and now they fly ;
After midsummer the cares of the family have so worn upon the jollity of our dashing, rollicking friend that his song is seldom heard. The colors of his coat fade into a dull yellowish brown like that of his faithful mate, who has borne the greater burden of the season, for he has two complete moults each year.
The bobolinks build their nest on the ground in high grass. The eggs are of a bluish white. Their food is largely insectivorous: grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, spiders, with seeds of grass especially for variety.
In August they begin their journey southward, flying mainly by night. Arriving in the Southern States, they become the sad-colored, low-voiced rice or reed bird, feeding on the rice fields, where they descend to the ignominious fate of being dressed for the plate of the epicure.
Could there be a more tragic ending to the glorious note of the gay songster of the north ?