Bobolink -- South Dakota Birds

Length: 6.5 - 8 inches Wingspan: 10.5 - 12.5 inches Seasonality: Summer
ID Keys: Black underparts and wings, buffy back of head, white rump, white wing patch (male).


Dolichonyx oryzivorus

The male Bobolink has unusual "reversed" plumage, with black underparts and lighter buff and white colors above.  The beautiful, metallic bubbling song is a common summer sound in the state.  Bobolinks were once considered delicacies at Eastern restaurants, and were heavily hunted for food throughout the 1800's.  Rice farmers of the south also killed great numbers of Bobolinks, as the "Ricebirds" as they were called often fed in numbers in rice fields.  After making a comeback earlier in the century, Bobolinks again began to decline in the middle to late 1900's.  With their primary breeding habitat (damp meadows) in short supply, Bobolinks often nest in hay and alfalfa fields, making nests extremely vulnerable to hay-cutting.  A mature male is pictured on the right, while a juvenile is shown on the bottom. 

Habitat: Prefers damp meadows and dense prairies.  With conversion of these habitats to other land cover types, many now nest in hay/alfalfa fields.

Diet: Primarily insects in the summer, also seeds and grains. 

Nesting: June and July

Breeding Map: Breeding Bird Survey map

Song: Bobolink Song

Migrations: Summers throughout much of the northern half of the U.S. and southern Canada.  Winters in southern South America.

Similar Species: Lark Bunting

Status: Was killed in great numbers for food in the 1800's.  Also was historically killed when found foraging in rice fields.  After rebounding, populations have been seriously declining in the past few decades due to habitat destruction.

Further Information: USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Bobolink

Photo Information: Top Photo: June 5th, 2005 -- Eastern Minnehaha County -- Terry Sohl

Bottom Photo: August 29th, 2003 -- Near Pierre -- Doug Backlund

Additional higher-resolution photos: Click here for additional higher resolution photos of this species.