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Buttercups and Bobolinks

Posted on Jun 22, 2015

Fields painted yellow, birds singing and the sun shining, what else could we ask for? Throughout Chautauqua County the fields are becoming seas of gold as the buttercups bloom. These common flowers don’t just make a large grassy field pretty, but also provide habitat and cover for a number of breeding grassland birds. For Bobolinks in particular, these fields provide a great deal of food, abundant nesting materials and a safe haven to raise their young. As we have been conducting vegetation surveys at the Chautauqua County-Jamestown Airport, we have been surrounded by these incredible birds.


Male Bobolink-Notice his backwards tuxedo?

Something that amazes me about the Bobolink is the fact that they travel to northern North America to breed in areas such as ours and then travel some 12,000 miles to their wintering grounds in South America every year! The habitat that is created here in our region by the expansive hay fields and vacant farm lands provides an ideal place for them to land after their long journeys.


Female Bobolink

Unfortunately, these birds, along with many other grassland species, are declining across the country due to development of prairies and farm fields, the succession of fields into young forests and intensive mowing during nesting season. As our work continues through the summer at the airport, we will continue to monitor the Bobolinks as well as be on the lookout for other rare grassland birds such as the Grasshopper and Henslow’s Sparrows, both of which are state listed species. Through active management and collaborative efforts with our local airport, we may be able to protect these birds while also protecting the well-being of incoming and outgoing planes.

Elyse Henshaw
Conservation Technician