Bobolink
Working Lands

The Bobolink Project

Linking farmers and birders together to support bird-friendly agricultural practices
Bobolink Photo: Doug Gimler
Working Lands

The Bobolink Project

Linking farmers and birders together to support bird-friendly agricultural practices

The Bobolink Project serves as a model of birders and farmers working together, sharing a common interest in habitat conservation. A pledge to the Bobolink Project compensates farmers who agree to adopt bird-friendly haying practices. This unique project allows people to support bird conservation and local farms at the same time.

How it works:

  • Farmers receive economic assistance to delay their mowing schedules so that grassland nesting birds can complete their breeding cycles
  • Conservation donors “buy time” so grassland birds can successfully raise young on working farms
  • Landowners help by offering to enroll their farms in The Bobolink Project and are paid to cover costs due to delaying their harvesting schedule
  • The number of acres protected will depend on the amount of money donated each year. Information on the project and how to donate may be found at www.bobolinkproject.com.

Audubon Vermont's Role in the Bobolink Project

  • Survey enrolled fields to ensure compliance with haying schedules
  • Determine numbers of Bobolinks nesting in enrolled fields
  • Support project partners to administer the Bobolink Project in Vermont
  • Continue collaborative efforts with VT Fish & Wildlife on grassland bird conservation

Why Bobolinks and other grassland birds?

  • Bobolinks are known for their “R2-D2”-like song and their dramatic black and white plumage. Bobolinks have been in decline since the 1900's. Their decline has primarily been due to changes farming practices; fields are now mowed earlier and more often than they were in the past.
  • Because Bobolinks nest on the ground, they are particularly vulnerable to haying practices. They return to Vermont from their wintering grounds in Central America and begin breeding in mid-late May. The young hatch in mid-June, which is usually the same time that farmers are cutting fields for the first time, therefore resulting in nest failures.
  • Conserving Bobolink habitat will help other declining grassland bird species such as Eastern Meadowlark and Grasshopper Sparrow.

For more information and to enroll your farm or donate to the project, visit: http://www.bobolinkproject.com/

You can also watch Audubon biologists Mark LaBarr and Margaret Fowle discuss the 2016 Boblink Project on Across the Fence.

Project History

The Bobolink Project started in 2007 in Jamestown, Rhode Island, bringing residents together to protect habitat for the Bobolinks that nest each year in the island's hayfields. By 2011, The Bobolink Project reached throughout Rhode Island and into parts of Vermont. To expand the geographic scope of The Project and establish a more sustainable administrative structure, in 2016 coordination of The Bobolink Project shifted to a collaborative partnership among Mass Audubon, Audubon Vermont, and Audubon Connecticut. The Project’s founders, Drs. Stephen Swallow and Allan Strong, continue to be deeply involved in the Project.

Since 2013, a total of $154,450 has been raised in Vermont, enough to cover nearly 1,500 acres of hayfields in the Champlain Valley. In the coming years the project potentially will expand to other parts of the state as well as the Connecticut River Valley of Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Watch Audubon biologists Mark LaBarr and Margaret Fowle discuss the 2016 Boblink Project on Across the Fence.

How you can help, right now