Dickcissels have a large pale bill, a yellow line over the eye, brownish upperparts with black streaks on the back, dark wings, a rust patch on the shoulder and light underparts. This head and breast pattern is especially brilliant in the breeding plumage. Females and juveniles are brownish on the cheeks and crown and are somewhat similar in appearance to House Sparrows; they have streaked flanks.

Habitat and Distribution

Their breeding habitat is fields in midwestern North America. They migrate in large flocks to southern Mexico, Central America, and northern South America. They may occur as vagrants well outside of their normal range.


Dickcissels forage on the ground or in fields. They mainly eat insects and seeds and can consume large amounts of cultivated grains.


Breeding starts late May or June. These birds nest near the ground in dense grasses or small shrubs, or up to 3 to 4 ft (91 to 120 cm) high in bushes and trees. Males may have up to six mates, however most attract one, two or none at all.

Calls and Songs

This bird's song is a sharp dick dick followed by a buzzed cissel, also transcribed as skee-dlees chis chis chis or dick dick ciss ciss ciss.