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Dickcissel

Spiza americana ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: CARDINALIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A sparrow-like bird of the prairie grasslands of the United States, the Dickcissel congregates in huge flocks in migration and on its tropical grassland wintering grounds. The breeding male is colored like a tiny meadowlark, with a black "V" on a yellow chest.

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At a GlanceHelp

Measurements
Both Sexes
Length
5.5–6.3 in
14–16 cm
Wingspan
9.8 in
25 cm
Weight
0.8–1 oz
23–29 g
Other Names
  • Dickcissel (French)
  • Arrocero americano (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • In preparation for fall migration, Dickcissels begin assembling in larger and larger flocks that gradually coalesce into flocks of thousands. Winter roosts can number into the millions of birds.
  • The Dickcissel makes irregular movements outside of its core breeding range to breed in surrounding areas where extensive grassland can be found. Such movements can make for dramatic changes in abundance from year to year. Abundance on much of the wintering ground also varies markedly from year to year.
  • Nearly all Dickcissels winter far south of their breeding range, but each year small numbers can be found scattered within the breeding range throughout the winter. Individual Dickcissels frequently turn up far from the normal range, often joining in with House Sparrow flocks.

Habitat


Grassland

Tall grasslands, including prairie, hayfields, lightly grazed pastures, and roadsides.

Food


Seeds

Seeds and insects.

Nesting

Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
3–6 eggs
Egg Description
Unmarked, pale blue.
Condition at Hatching
Helpless with sparse white down.
Nest Description

A bulky cup of weed and grass stems, lined with finer grasses, rootlets, and hair. Placed slightly above ground in dense grasses or in tree saplings.

Nest Placement

Shrub

Behavior


Ground Forager

Perches on stalks to pluck seeds, picks fallen seeds from ground.

Conservation

status via IUCN

Least Concern

Dickcissel populations declined drastically from 1966 to 1978, but then stablized at a lower level. May be declining again in some areas. Considered an agricultural pest on the wintering grounds.

Credits

  • Temple, S. A. 2002. Dickcissel (Spiza americana). In The Birds of North America, No. 703 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.

Range Map Help

Dickcissel Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

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