Previously known as Black-throated Bunting

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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 being destroyed.

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.


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