Thursday, September 12, 2013

This week's Crops & Clips: Dickcissel

A single pair of Dickcissels may have nested for a a couple of seasons in the fields surrounding our NE Illinois condo before the land was developed. I did not find a nest, but a male sang there vigorously early in at least two summers. 

Funny-- when I searched for the title of their photos in my FLICKR collection I turned up only a handful of shots. I thought FLICKR had lost them until I realized that my spelling was faulty most of the time, as they were indexed as "Dicksissel!" When I Googled the misspelled name I found I was not alone in my error. I checked out Wikipedia and Avian Web and learned that this is indeed the correct spelling-- in Sweden! 

Among all those misspelled images was my favorite, ready for the wall:

Dicksissel Framed 20090618

The size and shape of the black bib and amount and clarity of yellow on the male Dickcissel's undersides varies somewhat. This specimen had a beautifully clear yellow breast:

Dicksissel singing 2-20110707

I always try to catch it singing. this fellow almost looks as if he is wearing a bow tie.

Dicksissel 6-20100607

There may be vague streaks on the male's flanks. 


Some have particularly bright reddish color on their scapulars and wing coverts.

Dicksissel Flying 20090629

Dicksissel 3-20110629

They are so much a part of life on the Midwestern grasslands that sometimes I want to include more prairie than bird in my compositions.

Dicksissel At Home 20090618

As if to show off his black breast spots, this male adopted an unusual pose.

Dicksissel 2-20100607

Believe it or not, all of the above photos were from the misspelled set!  Not to overlook the females, their colors are more subdued but nonetheless beautiful-- and I spelled this one's name properly.

Dickcissel female 20120709

I found this female alone and some distance from the prairies, in a small dark and lush woodland. Out of its habitat, I initially thought it might be a tanager or some kind of sparrow before I did a double-take and realized its identity.

Dickcissel female 3-20120716

This summer I did not get out too often, and neither saw nor heard any Dickcissels in nearby Nelson Lake/Dick Young Forest Preserve, one of my favorite places to find it. In late August I got a fleeting glimpse of what looked to me to be a sparrow. Only when I was about to discard the image did I realize it looked like a female Dickcissel, the only one I photographed all this year! (Back home at the computer, I took a closer look at that bill-- narrow and more pointed, and that yellow throat and white eye ring. Dickcissel NOT. It is a warbler, a female Common Yellowthroat, and this year I have been unsuccessful in my quest.) 

Female Dickcissel 20130824


  1. WOW!! In awe of your beautiful shots. This little one posed perfectly for you:) Thanks for sharing.

  2. oh, your dickcissel shots are superb! my attempts to catch them this spring were poor, at best!

  3. HI Ken I have never seen this little bird before and it is so pretty. Fantastic shots.

  4. What a really nice series, Ken! Definitely "wall worthy"!

  5. It is a darling bird, no matter how you spell it...and I'm not even going to try.


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