Rice Birds / by Sandy Olson

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rice bird

bobolink after Audubon

Walking along the road beside a hay field in late May or early June you hopefully hear the bobolink sing. You might know that they have recently travelled from Argentina to return to their breeding grounds and that they do that every year. You might know that their population is down 75% from loss of habitat both here and in South America.

Or you might be hearing their voices for the first time and wonder what their fuss is about. If you are listening when their mates are just showing up you may see some dancing along with the sweet twitter of the mating song. If you are listening when they have already nested on the ground in the late spring grass, then their burlesque flurry and frenzy would be letting you know that you are not welcome anywhere near their babies. Either way they .

Their nesting season is about six - eight weeks. Their young are fledged by mid July and the family then flies off to a nearby wetland where they will beef up for their long trip south. This year spring in Maine was slow, cold and wet. The grass was only a few inches high at the beginning of May and the bobolinks delayed nesting a week or so. Then the spring warmed quickly and the grass grew fast providing the cover a ground nest needs. The first week in June haying season began . That was last week. It seems like everywhere I go this week I see solitary female bobolinks sitting on a wire staring into a freshly mowed field, the nest decimated.