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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Just trying to (Bobo)link up

If you walk through the prairies of Cowling Arboretum at the right time in Spring, you may be fortunate enough to see a Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus).

These flighty birds—which, contrary to popular belief, do not have the scientific name robertolink—nest on the ground in grasslands and tend to forage on the ground for seeds.

In the mating season from May to June, the males sport classy black plumage, with frosted wingtips, a white back and a bold cap of white or yellow on their heads, for style.

It’s sort of as if one of them got drunk of his own fabulousness one night and accidentally put a tuxedo on backwards, and then everyone else copied that.

Male Bobolinks attempting to mate don’t go to the club, but instead can be seen flying in a helicopter-like pattern, moving slowly but with wings frantically fluttering.

While performing this aerial ballet, the males also grace the world with their mating song, which has been scientifically proven to be “lovely” by numerous peer-reviewed studies and can otherwise be described as long and burbling, with staccato punctuations of sharp, metallic notes.

However whimsical they may appear, these determined little fellas are not playing around. They engage in one of the longest migrations of any songbird, travelling from the soon-to-be frosty fields of the Northern United States and Canada to the pleasant pastures of southern South America—a distance of 12,500 miles.

Given their average lifespan of five years, this means that one Bobolink can travel the equivalent of four to five times around the circumference of the earth over the course of its lifetime.

While on this epic journey, a Bobolink can orient itself using the magnetic field of the earth (!), which it gets in touch with—so to speak—using ironoxide bristles in its nasal cavity.

In the presence of strong magnets, these crafty and seasoned travelers can also navigate using the stars. If I could do all that, I would go to South America every winter too!

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