Fluttering over meadows and hay fields in summer, the male Bobolink delivers a bubbling, tinkling song which, loosely interpreted, gives the species its name. The male is unmistakable in spring finery, but before fall migration he molts into a striped brown appearance like that of the female. Bobolinks in this plumage were once known as “rice birds” in the South, where they occasionally used to cause serious damage in the rice fields.
No other North American bird has a white back and black underparts (some have described this look as wearing a tuxedo backwards). Added to this are the male’s rich, straw-colored patch on the head and his bubbling, virtuosic song. As summer ends he molts into a buff and brown female-like plumage. Though they’re still fairly common in grasslands, Bobolink numbers are declining.