Living Bird Magazine
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Cardinalidae
The curt song of the Dickcissel sounds like the bird’s name, and it’s part of the soundtrack of the North American prairies. This chunky grassland bunting is colored like a miniature meadowlark, with a black V on a yellow chest. These birds are erratic wanderers—common across the middle of the continent, and also a pleasant surprise whenever they turn up in pastures and fields elsewhere in the central and eastern United States. Dickcissels can form enormous flocks on migration and in winter.More ID Info
Find This Bird
The best place to find Dickcissels is in overgrown pastures, savannahs, and croplands in the central Great Plains, although the birds move around from year to year so you may have to search several spots. Their song is fairly short but hard to miss, a clicky buzzing dick-dick-ceessa-ceessa. Watch for males sitting on barbed wire fences, posts, and shrubby trees as they launch into song over and over again.
- Arrocero (Spanish)
- Dickcissel d'Amérique (French)
- Cool Facts
- In preparation for fall migration, Dickcissels assemble into larger and larger flocks that can reach into the thousands. On their wintering grounds, these flocks can number in the millions of birds.
- Dickcissels frequently make irregular movements into grassy habitats outside their core breeding range, making for sometimes dramatic changes in abundance from year to year.
- While the Dickcissel is currently classified as part of the cardinal family (Cardinalidae), it has vexed taxonomists trying to determine its closest relatives. In the past, it has been placed in the New World sparrow family and also in the oriole and blackbird family.
- The oldest known Dickcissel was at least 8 years old when it was recaptured and rereleased in Maryland.