Dickcissel

DickcisselDickcissel — The Dickcissel, Spiza americana, is a small seed-eating bird in the family Cardinalidae. It possibly is the only member of the genus Spiza (Bonaparte, 1824).

These birds have a large pale bill, a yellow line over the eye, brownish upperparts with black streaks on the back, dark wings, a rust patch on the shoulder and light underparts. Adult males resemble a sparrow-sized Eastern Meadowlark; they have a black throat patch, a yellow breast and grey cheeks and crown. Females and juveniles are brownish on the cheeks and crown and are somewhat similar in appearance to House Sparrows; they have streaked flanks.

In flight they make “a low, electric buzz fpppt” (Sibley 2000). From an open perch in a field, this bird’s song is a sharp dick dick followed by a buzzed cissel, also transcribed as “skee-dlees chis chis chis”.

Dickcissels forage on the ground or in fields. They mainly eat insects and seeds. Outside of the nesting season, they usually feed in flocks. They are considered a pest by farmers in some regions because flocks can consume large quantities of cultivated grains.

They nest near the ground in dense grasses or small shrubs, or up to 3-4 ft. high in bushes and trees. Males may have up to six mates, with most attracting only one or two, and several failing to attract any mate.

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