A Dickcissel is a fun bird to see while bird watching. Below are some tips to help you identify Dickcissels. We have also put together a list of fun Dickcissel t-shirts, Dickcissel bird patches, birdhouses, bird feeders, binoculars, stickers, and other fun bird-watching items.
The Dickcissel just like the Northern Cardinal and the Crimson-collared Grosbeak belongs to the family Cardinalidae. It is the only member under the genus Spiza as other members may be extinct species. They are native to the eastern regions of North America and more concentrated in Central America where their breeding grounds are present. Overall numbers of the population have been on the decline.
Description and Identification
Dickcissels are tiny birds that are 5.5-6.3 inches long and weigh approximately 0.9-1.4 oz. These
birds have large pale bills, yellow lines over and near their eyes, dark wings, and rusty patches on
their shoulders. The upper parts of these birds have black streaks, and their underparts are
generally very lightly colored. The breeding plumage of Dickcissels closely resembles the
plumage of eastern meadowlarks. Younglings have brownish checks and crowns and are difficult
to differentiate from house sparrows. Due to the fast movement of their wings while flying a
buzzing “fpppt” sound can be heard. These birds have earned their name through their
characteristic song from which the sounds “dick” and “ciss” can be heard.
Dickcissel Color Pattern
They have a large pale bill and a yellow line situated just above their eyes. The Dickcissel has black streaks on its pale dark brown upper parts. The streaks continue on to their reddish-brown wings while their shoulders have a rust patch. They have a yellow underbelly and gray cheeks and crown. In females, the check and crown are brownish in color.
They are fairly small songbirds when compared to other types of birds in the same family. They have a body length of 14-16cm and an average wingspan of 25cm. They weigh between 23-29g.
The Dickcissel likes to eat seeds while perched on plant stalk or move to the ground to pick fallen seeds. They have a simple dry song that you could hear during the summer months in their prairie grassland habitat when breeding. The dry song consists of two notes introduced at the beginning of the song followed by a short pause then six more main notes.
The female is responsible for selecting the nest site, building it and then raising the young. All of this is done alone.
The most common source of nutrition for Dickcissels is seeds. During summers, these birds also
include spiders and a variety of insects into their diet. Wasps, beetles, flies, termites, caterpillars,
and grasshoppers are some of the insects they forage for. When these birds are migrating or
wintering, they remove everything except seeds from their diet. Rice, sorghum, and buckwheat
make up a majority of their winter diet. Dickcissels have been observed to shell and consume over
a dozen sorghum seeds per minute. These birds are considered pests by farmers because
they can greatly affect produce by feeding on seeds in large flocks.
They mainly feed on seeds and insects. During their breeding season over summer, they feed on a variety of seeds and invertebrates especially because they are available in the region.
Dickcissels are birds that generally give preference to grassland habitats, but they can live in other
habitats if required. Other than their favorite grasslands, they are known to spend the breeding
season in hayfields, pastures, agricultural fields, roadsides, and fencerows. The habitat of the birds
does not particularly change during winters. During winters, they live in regions that allow them
access to three different habitats. These habitats include vegetable marshes or tall grasslands for
roosting, resting areas with shrubbery, and fields and grasslands for feeding.
They inhabit Alfalfa and other forms of fields. The Dickcissel can also be found in meadows and prairies.
Range and Migration
Dickcissels are small seed-eating birds that breed in the midwestern portion of the United States.
These migratory birds travel south to winter in Northern Columbia, northern Venezuela, and
Central America. Dickcissels travel in huge flocks while migrating. The abundance of Dickcissels in
their range consistently changes as they have a tendency for irregular movements to certain
habitats. Vagrant Dickcissels have been observed to stray towards both sides of the coast.
Dickcissel Life Cycle
A female Dickcissel can clutch 3-5 eggs per brooding season. They incubate the eggs alone for a period of 12-13days until the young hatch. She is tasked to feed and tend to the young until they are ready to take their first flight which is 7-10 days after they hatched. The bird has a lifespan of 4 years.
Male Dickcissels arrive first on the breeding grounds to establish and defend their territories —
they do so with the assistance of their singing abilities. Although females are seasonally
monogamous, males can have several mates. These birds often choose nest sites that are in the
vicinity of the ground. They only choose sites with dense grasses, weeds, or clovers that offer
sufficient cover to protect their nests. Both males and females take up the task of finding suitable
nesting sites. Female Dickcissels construct the nests out of weeds, leaves, grasses, and rootlets.
Given the availability, nests can also be lined with animal hair. Females lay about 3-6 eggs which
are incubated for 12-13 days. Dickcissels can raise up to 2 broods annually.
Bird Watching Academy & Camp Subscription Boxes
At Bird Watching Academy & Camp we help kids, youth, and adults get excited and involved in bird watching. We have several monthly subscription boxes that you can subscribe to. Our monthly subscription boxes help kids, youth, and adults learn about birds, bird watching, and bird conservation.
Bird Watching Binoculars for Identifying Dickcissels
The most common types of bird-watching binoculars for viewing Dickcissels are 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. Bird Watching Academy & Camp sells really nice 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. You can view and purchase them here.
If you love the Dickcissel you should purchase a Bird Watching Academy & Camp T-shirt. To help support bird conservation we donate 10 percent to bird conservation activities.
Dickcissel Iron On Patches
Kids, Youth, and Adults love to collect our Bird Watching Academy & Camp iron-on patches. Our bird-watching patches help you keep track of the birds you have seen and identified. You can also display the patches on our Bird Watching Academy & Camp banners.
The Dickcissel is a great iron-on patch to start your collection with. The patches are durable and can be sewn on or ironed on to just about anything.
Stickers are a great way for you to display your love for bird watching and the Dickcissel. We sell a monthly subscription sticker pack. The sticker packs have 12 bird stickers. These sticker packs will help your kids learn new birds every month.
Bird Feeders for Dickcissels
There are many types of bird feeders. Here are our favorite bird feeders for your backyard. We use all of these bird feeders currently. Kids will have a great time watching birds eat at these bird feeders. Using this collection of bird feeders will provide a wide variety and many types of birds.
Best Bird Houses for Dickcissels
There are many types of birdhouses. Building a birdhouse is always fun but can be frustrating. These 4 birdhouses have become our favorites. Getting a birdhouse for kids to watch birds grow is always fun. We spent a little extra money on these birdhouses but they have been worth the higher price and look great.