Take a walk in a sunny, open field in the northeast in mid-summer and if you’re very lucky, you might see a Bobolink. You really need that luck, because Bobolink populations have been declining for the past century, with a 75% decline just in the last 40 years. Whether you call them Bobolinks, white-winged blackbirds, butter birds, rice birds, or reed birds, there just aren’t that many anymore. The reason is a strange sort of habitat loss — the big hay fields they nest in are still there, but farmers have been changing the way the hay is harvested. It’s harvested earlier and more often, and that impacts the bobolinks ability to build their nests and raise their young. It’s a big problem for the Bobolinks, and other grassland birds, too, like the Eastern Meadowlark, Savannah Sparrow, Upland Sandpiper, and the Grasshopper Sparrow.
It’s time to get innovative, and that’s exactly what the Boblink Project has been doing since 2007. The Bobolink Project is a non-profit research program based out of the University of Connecticut and the University of Vermont. It provides a brand-new way to connect our environmental values with the farmers who can help. The project pays farmers to not mow their fields during the nesting season (late May-early June). The payments are funded through community contributions by bird lovers like you and me, who want to continue to see healthy, diverse bird populations.
Bobolinks are small, about the size of bluebirds, yet they have the longest migration of any North American songbird! And these hardy little birds need our help. Please take a few minutes to visit the project’s website, like them on Facebook, pin a few of their photos on Pinterest, or tweet about it to your friends. Better yet, pledge a few dollars to help them out. It’s a worthy project and 100% of the donations go directly to the farmers.