Dickcissel (Spiza americana)


[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Cardinalidae | [latin] Spiza americana | [UK] Dickcissel | [FR] Gros-bec dickcissel | [DE] Dickzissel | [ES] Arrocero americano | [NL] Dicksissel


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Pheucticus americana
Spiza americana NA, LA c USA to Venezuela and Colombia

Physical charateristics

A grassland bird; often travels in large flocks. Sits on fenceposts. Male: Suggests a miniature meadowlark (black bib, yellow chest). In fall the bib is obscure or lacking. Female:
Very much like a female House Sparrow, but paler, with lighter stripe over the eye, touch of yellow on the breast, and a bluish bill. The chestnut shoulder is also an aid.

Listen to the sound of Dickcissel


Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

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North America, Latin America : Central USA to Venezuela and Colombia


Alfalfa and other fields; meadows, prairies.
Originally nested in native prairies and meadows. Today, many nest in fields of alfalfa, clover, timothy, or other crops. In migration, may be found in any kind of grassy or weedy fields.


In many areas, numbers of nesting Dickcissels are wildly variable from year to year. Males arrive on breeding grounds about a week before females, and sing to defend nesting territory. One male may have more than one mate.
Nest: Site is usually on or near the ground, typically well concealed in dense growth of grass, weeds, alfalfa, clover, or other plants. Sometimes placed in shrub or low tree, up to 6′ above ground
, exceptionally higher. Nest (built by female) is a bulky open cup made of weeds, grass, leaves, lined with fine grass, rootlets, sometimes animal hair.
Eggs: 4, sometimes 3-5, rarely 2-6. Pale blue, unmarked. Incubation is by female only, about 12-13 days.
Young: Nestlings are fed by female only. Young leave the nest about 7-10 days after hatching, are unable to fly for several more days.

Feeding habits

Mostly insects and seeds.
Insects make up majority of diet in early summer; included are many grasshoppers, also crickets, caterpillars, beetles, and many others. At other seasons, may feed mainly on seeds, including those of weeds and grasses, also cultivated grain.
Behavior: Forages mostly on the ground and in low vegetation. Except when nesting, usually forages in flocks.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Dickcissel status Least Concern


Southern Canada and interior of United States. Winters mainly from Mexico to northern South America. Very rare migrant and winter visitor to California. Migration:
Migrates in flocks, sometimes in flocks of many hundreds. Strays reach both coasts in autumn. Rarely found in our area in winter except along Atlantic Coast, where a few may spend the season at bird feeders.

Distribution map

Dickcissel distribution range map

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