A migratory marvel, the Bobolink may travel the equivalent of four or five times around the Earth in its lifetime.

Bobolink map, NatureServeReflecting its taste for rice and other grains, the Bobolink has been called the “ricebird.” Its bubbling song, which seems to say “bobolink,” is the origin of its unusual name.

These are birds of prairie and grasslands across the northern United States and southern Canada; they can also been found in uncut pastures, overgrown fields, and meadows during the breeding season. The handsome males wear a unique “backward tuxedo” during breeding and sing while performing conspicuous flight displays.

After breeding, Bobolinks move to different habitats, such as marshes and coastal areas, to molt before starting their long journey south again. Wintering in the southern interior of South America, they're found in grasslands, marshes, and rice and sorghum fields.

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Pesticides and Bobolinks

This songbird is a long-distance migrant, traveling some 12,500 miles to and from southern South America each year. The birds often migrate in large flocks, pausing at marshes and farm fields (especially rice fields) along the way.

Bobolink populations have declined by 50 percent in the last 40 years in part due to pesticide use. In Bolivia, a major wintering ground for the species, rice farmers try to protect their crops by using pesticides such as monochrotophos, which is highly toxic to birds (and humans) and banned from use in the United States.

In addition to older products, new pesticides such as sulfoxaflor and neonicotinoid insecticides continue to be approved and widely used, in spite of increasing evidence that they harm birds and other wildlife.

Another major threat to the Bobolink is habitat loss: Native grasslands are one of the most threatened and quickly-disappearing habitats in the Americas.

Female Bobolink, Bill Hubick

Female Bobolink by Bill Hubick

Backing the Bobolink

ABC advocates for the continuation of key Farm Bill provisions such as the Conservation Reserve Program, which encourages grassland conservation on working farms.

Our Pesticides Program aims to protect Bobolinks and other birds by working to cancel or restrict registrations of the most dangerous pesticides. We also work to improve evaluation and monitoring of pesticides and their effects on birds, and to ensure that any knowledge gained is used to improve the regulatory process.

Get Involved

We welcome all and every effort to help us "bring back the birds." If you would like to make a donation, please click here. Or visit our Get Involved page to learn more about how you can help. Together, we can make a difference for this special bird.

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