Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited
Vol 1. March, 1897 No. 3
“When Nature had made all her birds,
And had no cares to think on,
She gave a rippling laugh,
And out there flew a Bobolinkon.”
O American ornithologist omits mention of the Bobolink, and naturalists generally have described him under one of the many names by which he is known. In some States he is called the Rice Bird, in others Reed Bird, the Rice or Reed Bunting, while his more familiar title, throughout the greater part of America, is Bobolink, or Bobolinkum. In Jamaica, where he gets very fat during his winter stay, he is called the Butter Bird. His title of Rice Troopial is earned by the depredations which he annually makes upon the rice crops, though his food “is by no means restricted to that seed, but consists in a large degree of insects, grubs, and various wild grasses.” A migratory bird, residing during the winter in the southern parts of America, he returns in vast multitudes northward in the early Spring. According to Wilson, their course of migration is as follows: “In April, or very early in May, the Rice Buntings, male and female, arrive within the southern boundaries of the United States, and are seen around the town of Savannah, Georgia, sometimes in separate parties of males and females, but more generally promiscuously. They remain there but a short time, and about the middle of May make their appearance in the lower part of Pennsylvania. While here the males are extremely gay and full of song, frequenting meadows, newly plowed fields, sides of creeks, rivers, and watery places, feeding on May flies and caterpillars, of which they destroy great quantities. In their passage, however, through Virginia at this season, they do great damage to the early wheat and barley while in their milky state. About the 20th of May they disappear on their way to the North. Nearly at the same time they arrive in the State of New York, spread over the whole of the New England States, as far as the river St. Lawrence, and from Lake Ontario to the sea. In all of these places they remain during the Summer, building their nests and rearing their young.”
The Bobolink’s song is a peculiar one, varying greatly with the occasion. As he flys southward, his cry is a kind of clinking note; but the love song addressed to his mate is voluble and fervent. It has been said that if you should strike the keys of a pianoforte haphazard, the higher and the lower singly very quickly, you might have some idea of the Bobolink’s notes. In the month of June he gradually changes his pretty, attractive dress and puts on one very like the females, which is of a plain rusty brown, and is not reassumed until the next season of nesting. The two parent birds in the plate represent the change from the dark plumage in which the bird is commonly known in the North as the Bobolink, to the dress of yellowish brown by which it is known throughout the South as the Rice or Reed Bird.
His nest, small and a plain one, too, is built on the ground by his industrious little wife. The inside is warmly lined with soft fibers of whatever may be nearest at hand. Five pretty white eggs, spotted all over with brown are laid, and as soon
“As the little ones chip the shell
And five wide mouths are ready for food,
‘Robert of Lincoln’ bestirs him well,
Gathering seeds for this hungry brood.”
Other birds may like to travel alone, but when jolly Mr. Bobolink and his quiet little wife come from the South, where they have spent the winter, they come with a large party of friends. When South, they eat so much rice that the people call them Rice Birds. When they come North, they enjoy eating wheat, barley, oats and insects.
Mr. and Mrs. Bobolink build their simple little nest of grasses in some field. It is hard to find on the ground, for it looks just like dry grass. Mrs. Bobolink wears a dull dress, so she cannot be seen when she is sitting on the precious eggs. She does not sing a note while caring for the eggs. Why do you think that is?
Mr. Bob-Linkum does not wear a sober dress, as you can see by his picture. He does not need to be hidden. He is just as jolly as he looks. Shall I tell you how he amuses his mate while she is sitting? He springs from the dew-wet grass with a sound like peals of merry laughter. He frolics from reed to post, singing as if his little heart would burst with joy.
Don’t you think Mr. and Mrs. Bobolink look happy in the picture? They have raised their family of five. Four of their children have gone to look for food; one of them—he must surely be the baby—would rather stay with his mamma and papa. Which one does he look like?
Many birds are quiet at noon and in the afternoon. A flock of Bobolinks can be heard singing almost all day long. The song is full of high notes and low, soft notes and loud, all sung rapidly. It is as gay and bright as the birds themselves, who flit about playfully as they sing. You will feel like laughing as merrily as they sing when you hear it some day.
Even the birds in the sky know the right time to do things. The storks, doves, swifts, and thrushes know when it is time to fly to a new home. But my people don’t know what the LORD wants them to do. (Jeremiah 8:7 ERV)
Adults are 16–18 cm (6–8 in) long with short finch-like bills. They weigh about 1 ounce (28 g). Adult males are mostly black, although they do display creamy napes, and white scapulars, lower backs and rumps. Adult females are mostly light brown, although their coloring includes black streaks on the back and flanks, and dark stripes on the head; their wings and tails are darker. The collective name for a group of bobolinks is a chain.
Distribution and movements
These birds migrate to Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay. One bird was tracked flying 12,000 miles (19,000 km) over the course of the year, and up to 1,100 miles (1,800 km) in one day. They often migrate in flocks, feeding on cultivated grains and rice, which leads to them being considered a pest by farmers in some areas. Although Bobolinks migrate long distances, they have rarely been sighted in Europe—like many vagrants from the Americas, the overwhelming majority of records are from the British Isles. Each fall, Bobolinks gather in large numbers in South American rice fields, where they are inclined to eat grain. This has earned them the name “ricebird” in these parts. However, they are called something entirely different in Jamaica (Butterbirds) where they are collected as food, being that they are very fat as they pass through on migration.
Their breeding habitats are open grassy fields, especially hay fields, across North America. In high-quality habitats, males are often polygynous. Females lay 5 to 6 eggs in a cup-shaped nest, which is always situated on the ground and is usually well-hidden in dense vegetation. Both parents feed the young.
Bobolinks forage on, or near the ground, and mainly eat seeds and insects. Males sing bright, bubbly songs in flight; these songs gave this species its common name.
The above article is an article in the monthly serial for March 1897 “designed to promote Knowledge of Bird-Live.” These include Color Photography, as they call them, today they are drawings. There are at least three Volumes that have been digitized by Project Gutenberg.
To see the whole series of – Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited
(Information from Wikipedia and other internet sources)
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Bobolink – Extraordinary Migrant… by a j mithra
Bobolink – All About Birds – Cornell Labs
Bobolink – Wikipedia
Bobolink – Videos and Photos – Internet Bird Collection