Gene Stratton-Porter commented that she enjoyed hearing a Bobolink every summer.
“This veritable music box pours out his song, the whole of which is an interrupted run,
interspersed with his call note and ravishing variations which run high and drop again in
a sort of fantasy of irrepressible, spontaneous clearness.”
In May 1908, Gene was very pleased to show T. Gilbert Pearson the male Bobolink in his
breeding plumage on the Stanley farm on the east side of Geneva. Gilbert would go on to
lead the National Audubon Society.
The male is distinctive in his breeding plumage and perches on low vegetation while
singing. He frequently sings in flight also. The Bobolink is black underneath and white
on the back making him look like he is wearing a tuxedo backwards. After the breeding
season, he returns to drab coloring, similar to the female, and remains that way until the
Bobolinks are a good bird to have around open fields as they eat mostly seeds from what
are considered weeds at this time of year.
The Bobolinks like to nest in open fields of alfalfa, hay or clover. They are a ground
nesting bird and the nests are made of grasses and are hard to locate as they are well
hidden in vegetation cover. The female will leave the nest and run before flying. A
female will typically lay 4-7 eggs. Their populations have been decreasing due to habitat
destruction and a pair will raise only one brood a year. According to Don Gorney, a bird
expert from Indianapolis, Bobolinks are a grassland specialist that are sensitive to habitat
size. He estimates that they need a minimum of 50 acres to nest.
Ken Brunswick has seen as many as four males at one time at Limberlost this year. Ken’s
boyhood recollections of it in the 1950s on his family farm in Ohio is “etched in his
mind.” They nested in the hay fields on the family farm.
Jane Brooks Hine, a female ornithologist from DeKalb County, was given credit by the
Indiana Academy of Sciences for the first sighting of a Bobolink in Noble County in
1883. By 1886 she writes that there was a pair nesting on her farm in northwest DeKalb
It is very gratifying to see these beautiful birds back at Limberlost. Gene Stratton-Porter
would be very pleased to know that her singer has now chosen to nest and spend the
summer season back at her beloved Limberlost. She enjoyed watching them nest in the
summer. She commented that “the Bobolinks danced and chattered on stumps and fences,
in an agony of suspense, when their nests were approached, crying pitifully if they were
After about a nine week stay in our area, Bobolinks typically congregate in marshes
before the long journey back to their winter home in central South America. They usually
migrate in large flocks which they will be doing shortly. May they have a safe journey
and return to the Limberlost next spring!
If you are interested in researching more on the Bobolink, check out these websites: