Sunday, June 21, 2009

Bobolink wonder

I get asked often why I find bird banding so fascinating. There is some personal pleasure in the things I get to see and learn by having the birds in the hand, so close up. The real reason, though, is being a part of something that truly contributes to the body of knowledge of what we know about birds. It is really important to not just guess when we try to decide what habitats they need, where they go when they migrate, etc. Banding an individual and then being fortunate enough to actually recover THAT SAME BIRD tells us so much. A perfect example happened this weekend. Last year on June 1, a male Bobolink was banded in a field area in Minnesota. On June 20 of this year, that same bird was recovered. On the exact same hill in that field. In between the time we saw him last year, he had made a 12,500 mile trip south of the equator to his wintering grounds in South America. This species is one of concern. The Birds of North America lists concerns such as, "being shot as agricultural pests in the southern United States, trapped and sold as pets in Argentina, and collected as food in Jamaica. The species is not as abundant as it was several decades ago, primarily because of changing land-use practices, especially the decline of meadows and hay fields."

A note on their biology - Bobolinks are polygynous and was one of the first species in which multiple paternity (females laying a clutch of eggs sired by more than one male) was documented.

The photos I have here are of two males sitting on the same branch, essentially, in this field. There were three in the area - the one that was retrapped was not one of these two males. A female did fly in, with what appears to be an insect or something, perhaps to feed young. In Minnesota, Bobolinks arrive in May, and have left by July, so their breeding season is very short. The last photo is of the famous male. If you check out the BONA online, the male that is featured from me is that male that was banded last year.

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