The name Dickcissel was originally a nickname
familiarly applied to the Spiza americana which was known by ornithologists
before the 20th Century as the Black-throated Bunting. Unlike the
true Buntings (who are part of the Emberizidae family), the Dickcissel
is part of the Cardinalidae family. This fact may be the reason why
the name Black throated Bunting seems to have fallen into disuse,
and the Spiza americana is now known in general by the name Dickcissel
- an interesting case of a nickname having ousted a name which was once
in frequent use. The sound of the bird's song probably inspired the
name Dickcissel - the cry soundling like "Dick cisscissciss"
At around 15 centimetres long, the Dickcissel has
yellow touches over the eye, a grey-brown upper side with black strips
at the back, dark wings, rusty marks on the shoulder and a light colouration
on the underparts. The male has a black throat, a yellow chest and a grey
hood and grey cheeks. The female and the young birds have brown cheeks
and hoods and streaky- coloured flanks.
The Dickcissel breeds in open landscapes in southeast
Canada and the east of the USA and migrates for wintering in larger swarms
in southern Mexico, central America and in the northern South America.
This bird searches fields or soil for insects and
seeds. Outside of the breeding season time, groups of these birds go searching
for food together. In some regions the Dickcissel is regarded by farmers
as a parasite, as swarms of these birds result in large quantities of grain
The female builds a large bowl-shaped nest from
plant material in an area of thick grass or amid bushes. An average of
4 eggs are laid, these being incubated for approximately two weeks. After
the chicks have hatched only take around 10 days to become fully fledged.
The male Dickcissel may mate with more than one female.