The Bobolink is a member of the blackbird and oriole family (Icteridae) ranging in size from 6” to 8”. They have a short, finch-like bill, black coloring with a white back and a dull yellow nape. Some also know them as Ricebirds because of their history of gathering in large numbers in southern rice fields.
Researchers believe the original range of the Bobolink was confined to grasslands in the Central US, but with the settling of the Northeast, the Bobolink quickly spread to New England and other parts of the eastern US -including North Carolina.
Now, with much abandoned farmland converting to forest and increasing development of their habitats, the Bobolink population has seen a dramatic decline. Along with the loss of habitat, their nesting season coincides with hay harvest time, resulting in nests found in the tall grasses being destroyed before chicks have a chance to hatch and fly away.
In an effort to protect fledglings and fight population decline, Audubon North Carolina (ANC) established a small fund to work with local landowners to delay their hay harvest and allow the birds to fledge. In 2008, the fund was used to delay harvest on approximately 25 acres of land and resulted in about 30 young Bobolinks being fledged. ANC continues to work with landowners to delay harvest for these rare breeders.
Audubon North Carolina manages conservation efforts within 19 Important Bird Areas in the mountain region. One of these, the New River Corridor Important Bird Area is one of the five nesting locations for Bobolinks in North Carolina.