Named for its distinctive call, this handsome sparrow looks like a miniature meadowlark, with brown and gray upper parts, a gray face with a yellow band over the eye, and a bright yellow breast with a black V bib. But the bird’s small size and thick gray bill set it apart.
Dickcissels were abundant on the Eastern seaboard when open farmland dotted the landscape. But as forest took over, dickcissels retreated westward to their traditional homes of farm fields, pastures, prairies, and open range.
Look for the dickcissel’s handsome chestnut-colored wing patch to identify the bird when it’s flying.
Listen for the dickcissel’s song, a persistent and happy dick-dick-dick-ciss-ciss-cissell. It can be heard from quite a distance.
Know the habitats where dickcissels forage for seeds and insects: hay and alfalfa fields, lightly grazed pastures, wild prairie, unmown roadsides, and idle fields.
Attract dickcissels during migration time using tray feeders stocked with cracked corn, millet, or sunflower seeds.
Did you know that dickcissels gather in migration flocks that number in the thousands? The birds spend their winters in California, Mexico, and northern South America.
(Photo by Ron Austing)