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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Dickcissel -- Spiza americana

RANGE: Breeds from eastern Montana and southern Canada to Massachusetts, south to central Colorado, southern Texas, and central South Carolina. In the eastern portion of the range, breeds sporadically and irregularly. Winters mostly from Mexico to northern South America. Winters locally (in small numbers) in coastal lowlands from southern New England south to Florida and west to southern Texas.

STATUS: Common in the Plains, but rare and local in the East; overall population appears to be declining.

HABITAT: Generally inhabits grasslands having tall grasses, forbs, or shrubs but also fields planted to such crops as alfalfa, clover, and timothy. Also frequents abandoned or fallow croplands.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Dense herbaceous cover and song perches.

NEST: Builds a bulky, cup nest on the ground or attached to forks in shrubs, vines, or low trees. Locates nests in a variety of situations such as marshes, hayfields, abandoned or fallow croplands, roadsides, fencerows, and grasslands.

FOOD: Gleans most of its food from the ground; eats mainly vegetable materials - weed seeds and grain, and some insects.

REFERENCES: Harmeson 1974, Gross 1921, Overmire 1962, Taber 1947, Tate and Tate 1982, Zimmerman 1982.

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