dickcissel

Description: A quick glance at a dickcissel reminds one of a miniature meadowlark because of the black bib (not on female) and yellow breast. But the dickcissel is not as chunky, the tail not as broad and without the white outer tail feathers, and the bill much shorter than that of the meadowlark. The bird is short and stocky and about the size of a sparrow with a thick, finch-like bill. The dickcissel also has a chestnut shoulder patch and yellowish eyebrow through a mostly gray head.

Habits and Habitats: Dickcissels are very vocal summer residents of the Bluegrass FWA and VCP, and are very often seen perched atop a sturdy plant stalk, post, sign or small tree or shrub. It is a sparrow-like bird that historically nested in native prairies, but seems to find the reclaimed grasslands of the Bluegrass and the old fields at VCP to its liking. Elsewhere, dickcissels seem to have adapted to the agricultural landscape, also nesting in alfalfa and clover fields, fallow fields, and weedy ditches.

Voice: The dickcissel is named for its staccato type song; dick, dick, ciss, ciss, sell which it sings repeatly and loudly from a prominant perch within its territory. The rhythmic song has two parts; the first part consists of two emphatic notes (dick, dick, and the second part, which follows immediately, consists of three rapid notes at the same pitch (ciss, ciss, sell). The song can be quite variable at the beginning, with the first two notes (sometimes only one) lower, higher or at the same pitch as the second part.

Status: Dickcissels are very common birds at both the Bluegrass and at VCP. They typically arrive in late April and leave in mid to late August at both sites. It gets eerily quiet in early August as the males depart on fall migration. The juveniles hang around a little longer, sometimes into September, before they migrate south.

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