The not-very-musical song of the Dickcissel can be heard almost incessantly during the summer months in the tallgrass prairie of the central U.S., where breeding territories are established and defended. During winter months, quite an opposite lifestyle ensues, with enormous flocks of Dickcissels forming in a relatively small area of central Venezuela.
After making the long journey north from Venezuela, male Dickcissels are more likely to return to a prior breeding location than females, as are birds at the core of the Dickcissel’s range. At the edges of their range, Dickcissels are known to range widely from one year to the next.
Description of the Dickcissel
The Dickcissel has a yellow supercilium, a yellow breast, and reddish at the bend of the wing.
Males have a black V on the breast and brighter yellow on the head and breast. Length: 6 in. Wingspan: 10 in.
Females have paler yellow and lack the black breast V.
Seasonal change in appearance
Fall immatures resemble adult females, but are duller and have streaked breasts.
Dickcissels inhabit prairies, fields, and meadows.
Dickcissels eat insects and seeds.
Dickcissels forage on the ground or low in vegetation.
Dickcissels breed across much of the central U.S., and somewhat erratically in the east. They winter South America, especially in Venezuela. The population has declined in recent decades.
Dickcissels winter in a small area of central Venezuela where flocks can exceed one million birds, causing problems for grain farmers whose crops can be damaged. These large concentrations also make the population vulnerable to control efforts.
The number of breeding Dickcissels in a given area can vary greatly from one year to another, depending on rainfall and habitat conditions.
The song is a version of the species’ common name, a “dick-ciss-ciss-cissl.” A “chek” call is also given, as is a flight call that sounds like an electric buzzer.
- Both Eastern and Western Meadowlarks also have yellow breasts with a black V, but are much larger and chunkier.
The Dickcissel’s nest is a cup of coarse grass and is lined with finer materials. It is placed low in a forb or in grass.
Number: Usually lay 3-5 eggs.
Color: Pale blue.
Incubation and fledging:
The young hatch at about 12 days and fledge at about 9-10 days, though remaining dependent on the adults for some time.
Bent Life History of the Dickcissel
Published by the Smithsonian Institution between the 1920s and the 1950s, the Bent life history series of monographs provide an often colorful description of the birds of North America. Arthur Cleveland Bent was the lead author for the series. The Bent series is a great resource and often includes quotes from early American Ornithologists, including Audubon, Townsend, Wilson, Sutton and many others.
Bent Life History for the Dickcissel – the common name and sub-species reflect the nomenclature in use at the time the description was written.
SPIZA AMERICANA (Gmelin)
HABITSContributed by ALFRED O. GROSS
The dickcissel is one of the commonest of the birds to be seen in the open meadows and pastures of our Middle Western States. Anyone traveling along the highways of that section of the country is certain to notice the male, who constantly and lustily announces his presence by his earnest and incessant calls from the top of a fence post or weed stalk. The clear accented notes of the monotonous song at once suggest the bird’s common name. Often in the same fields one also sees the meadowlark, and because both species have yellow breasts with conspicuous black patches and other similarities, the smaller dickcissel is locally known as “the little meadowlark.” The name “black-throated bunting” which appears frequently in the writings of the older ornithologists is seldom heard today. The dickcissel not only contributes its beauty and cheerful song to its environment, but also consumes scores of destructive insects as well as hundreds of seeds of noxious weeds. It thus ranks high among the economically important prairie birds.
The nesting range of the dickcissel is limited chiefly to the region of the Middle West between the Alleghenies and the Rocky Mountains and from Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota south to Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. It is abundant and, according to numerous reports, apparently is becoming more so throughout Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota. Today it is rapidly extending its breeding range to the north and south as well as to the west of these states.
The dickcissel is very erratic in its distribution. Its numbers, even in the center of its nesting range, fluctuate greatly from year to year. A locality may have an abundance of dickcissels, only to have them practically disappear after a few years. Sometimes this fluctuation extends over so large an area of one or more States that we may speak of “high” or “low” years for the species.
A most remarkable feature of this erratic bird has been its recession from and its recent reoccupation of eastern North America. During the 19th century it nested commonly in a wide range extending from the Carolinas through Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York to Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Stragglers were collected as far south as Florida and as far north as New Hampshire and Nova Scotia (Gross, 1921). By the end of the century it had practically disappeared from the vast area east of the Allegheny Mountains. Many contemporary accounts tell of its diminution in numbers, and predictions were freely made that it was destined to be completely extirpated from this part of its former range. This happened during the first quarter of the 20th century. It nested in Mississippi as late as 1900 (Stockard, 1905), and the last record of its breeding in the northern section of this area was a nest found at Plainfield, N. J., on July 3, 1904, by W. De W. Miller (1904). It then disappeared, and the mystery of its disappearance has never been solved.
Just as baffling is the recent reappearance of great numbers in the region it deserted 50 years ago. After 1920 stragglers again appeared in the east, and a pair nested in Georgia in 1925, as reported by Burleigh (1927a), but the year 1928 marks the date when the dickeissel gave the greatest promise of a general return, In that year records ranged all the way from localities in Florida, the Carolinas, Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey to the Bay of Fundy as follows, arranged in chronological order: April 11, Pensacola, Fla. (Howell, 1932); April 26, Tallahassee, Fla., 1 male (Williams, 1929); May 18, Columbia, S.C., 1 bird (Smyth, 1930); May 19, Raleigh, N.C., 1 pair (Snyder, 1928); May 25, Columbia, S.C., colony of 50 birds (Smyth, 1930); May 26, June 9, 18, Darling, Pa., 1 male, 1 male, 1 pair (Stone, 1928a; Smyth, 1930); June 5, S.C: N.C. State line on Route 1, 1 bird (Smyth, 1930); June 10: 11, Sharptown, N.J., 1 male (Stone, 1928b); July 15, 22, Dickerson, Md., 6 males, female feeding young (Wetmore and Lincohi, 1928); August 6, Hendersonville, N.C., 2 males singing (Pearson and the Brimleys, 1942); September 23, aboard a steamer in the Bay of Fundy, amalein winter plumage (Rand, 1929); November 5, aboard a ship 140 miles off Cape Charles, Va., 1 female (Holt, 1932). These many records in 1928 gave observers reason to believe the dickcissel was staging a substantial comeback in the east. The dickeissels have fluctuated in numbers there ever since, but with no notable increase over the numbers reported in 1928.
The detailed summary of records of numbers in “New England Bird Life” (1936: 1944) and its successor, “Records of New England Birds” (1945 to the present), are helpful, at least, in hinting at the status of the dickcissel in New England from year to year. The number of birds reported each year by these two publications are as follows: 1937, 1 1938, 3; 1939,1; 1940, 6; 1941, 1; 1942, 0; 1943, 3; 1944, 0; 1045, 4; 1946, 18; 1947, 9; 1948, 19; 1949, 50; 1950, 51; 1951, 72; 1952, 122; 1953, 288. This represents a total of 647 dickcissels in 398 separate reports in the New England States alone. It will be seen that from 1948 on the increase was extraordinary. The 647 birds were distributed by States as follows: Maine 53, New Hampshire 6, Vermont 6, Massachusetts 489, Rhode Island 44, and Connecticut 49. The extremely large number reported from Massachusetts is due in part to the larger number of active field observers in that State, but even so, it is obvious that the density of the recent invasion of dickcissels in New England is centered there.
If we arrange the 647 New England records according to months of the year we have the following: January 77, February 44, March 25, April 28, May 4, June 0, July 0, August 34, September 128, October 114, November 88, and December 105. Thus the dickcissels appear in New England during August, reach their maximum in September and October, and then drop off slowly until April. Only 4 dickcissels were reported in May for the 17 years of records; none was reported for June and July. What becomes of the birds after the end of April each year? I believe that most migrate back to their midwestern breeding grounds.
Most of the reports tabulated above are for one or two birds, rarely as many as three or five, the average being 1.6 birds to a report. Many winter records are of individuals that visit feeding stations where they often associate with house sparrows. At the feeding stations these two birds, somewhat similar in size and appearance but of different families and radically different in nesting habits, have food habits in common that bring them together. Observations at many feeding stations have greatly augmented the number of records. In fact feeding stations may be a factor in attracting them and encouraging them to remain in New England throughout the winter.
The records in the regional reports of the “Aubudon Field Notes” indicate that the recent dickcissel invasion occupies the region from the Middle Atlantic States through New England to maritime Canada.
According to Godfrey (1954) three birds were observed and a specimen collected as far north as the Moisie River on the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and another was collected 150 miles farther east on the north shore of the Gull at Baie Johan Beetz. The northeasternmost record is of one observed and one found dead at Terra Nova in central eastern Newfoundland. There are a number of records for Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. This spread to northeastern United States and Canada suggests that the dickcissels come directly westward from the great breeding grounds of the Middle West and travel north of the barrier of the higher Appalachian mountains, probably aided by the prevailing winds at that time of the year. They continue eastward until stopped by the Atlantic Ocean, which most of them reach on the Massachusetts coast. From there they fan out northward to Maine and Canada, and possibly a few to the south. This assumption seems reasonable when we consider that the great majority of records are from coastal New England, many from such islands as Block Island, R.I., Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., Monhegan Island, Me., and Macbias Seal Island in the Bay of Fundy. Some that continue on have taken refuge on boats at sea (Fleisher, 1926; Holt, 1932; Rand, 1929; Lamm, 1956). No doubt some adventurous individuals are lost at sea.
In the spring the dickcissels wintering east of the Alleghenies probably return to their Middle West nesting area by a direct eastwest migration over the route previously mentioned. This east-west and west-east migration has a parallel in several other species, for example the evening grosbeak, in which it has been a gradual but now a fixed habit. Even as the evening grosbeak is now nesting in northeastern United States and southeastern Canada, the dickcissel may again nest in New England, although it is not safe to predict the future status of so erratic a bird.
As yet I know of no recent nesting record of the dickcissel in New England and eastern Canada. All the eastern nesting records thus far have been from New York and the more southern States. John W. Aldrich’s map of the breeding distribution of the dickcissel taken from U.S. Fish and Wildlife species distribution card file show the following number of localities in the States east of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers: Mississippi 1, Alabama 6, Georgia 2, Tennessee 2, Kentucky 1, West Virginia 2, Pennsylvania 2, and New Jersey 1 (Aldrich, 1948). A considerable number of nesting records, chiefly in the Gulf and southern States, l~ave~been made since Aldrich’s map was published.
I am inclined to believe that the dickeissels nesting in our southern States reach there from the south in the spring rather than coming directly from the west in the fall over the route suggested for om~ northern winter visitors. During the spring migration it is conceivable that some of the birds on the regular migration, on reaching the midsouthcrn United States, instead of following the Mississippi Valley route, are diverted to the eastern part of the United States. Many of the dates of arrival in our southern States correspond to the spring migration dates of the appearance of these birds in the Mississippi Valley.
Regardless of how the northern and southern contingents of dickcissels arrive, the sudden change of the status of this bird in the eastern part of the United States is most extraordinary.
Spring: The dickcissel winters in Central America and in northern South America, but in much of Central America, especially in the coastal plains and lowlands, it appears only as a migrant. Peters (1931) collected specimens at Chiriquicito, Panama, as late as April 18, 1928. Dicky and van Rossem (1938) state that the dickcissel is a common spring migrant through the more open districts of the lower foothills and coastal plain of El Salvador. A male specimen was taken from a large flock at Divisadero on Apr. 12, 1926. Alexander F. Skutch states in correspondence that it is widely distributed over Central America during the winter months, but considers its status as a winter resident in the Caribbean lowlands doubtful. Near Los Amates in the lowlands of Guatemala he did not meet with it until Mar. 28, 1932, more than a month after he began work in that region. J. L. Peters (1929) also suspects that it is only a migrant m the Caribbean lowlands. He did not encounter it until March 29, when he saw two at Lancetilla perched on a wire fence running beside the railroad track where he passed six times a day, making it certain that the birds were new arrivals from the south. Several years previously Peters saw dickcissels appear at Quintana Roo for the first time on April 5. Van Tyne (1935) secured specimens at Uaxactun, Guatemala, April 13 to June 20, and at Chuntuqui April 29 to May 8. He states: “Dickeissels were frequently seen at the Uaxactum clearing in flocks of about ten to thirty. Some came regularly to the mule corral to feed on waste corn. The last were noted April 28, when several flocks were still in the clearing.”
Russell (1964) writes: “The Dickcissel has been observed in British Honduras only from the end of February to May 14 with the majority of the observations occurring in the period of April 12 to 27. Migrants may stop in any open area, especially on the keys and the grassland of pine ridges at all elevations. Flocks of 15 to 30 individuals of this common transient are often seen. Some birds are extremely fat * * *~ The gonads of birds taken in late April were slightly enlarged, and Peck states that in May many Dickcissels were singing.” Sutton and Pettingill (1942) saw the first dickcissel near Rancho, Tamaulipas, Apr. 15, 1938. It was noted daily from April 22 to May 1, usually in small flocks in weed-grown fields. Singing was heard from April on. A male collected on April 27 bad considerably enlarged testes.
The above records indicate that the dickcissels do not leave Panama and Central America until April, and some individuals may linger into May. G. C. Williams (1945) states that dickcissels migrating from their winter quarters follow the coastal region of Mexico and Texas to reach their breeding grounds. The many spring records from that region confirm this route for a large percentage of the individuals. Lowery (1945 and 1946), however, has shown that many birds, including at least some dickcissels, make the trans-Gulf migration. Obviously certain contingents of dickcissels may take either route (Stevenson, 1957).
The first dickcissels arrive in Texas during April to breed in the prairie sections of the State. Florence Merriam Bailey (1902) writes: “When in southern Texas during the spring migration we met with flocks of dickcissels on their way to the north. In places on the open prairie two to three hundred would be sitting in rows on the wire fences like swallows on telegraph wires. * * * Wben not in compact flocks they were scattered through the chapparal singing on the tops of the bushes. Their song had a mouthed, furry quality, but was none the less sunny and enjoyable. When they are on their breeding grounds their song is one of the pleasantest features of the big grain fields.”
At Baton Rouge and New Orleans the dickcissels arrive regularly on April 15th and are often abundant by April 20 (Lowery, 1945). The earliest record for Louisiana is of one seen at New Orleans on Apr. 6, 1894 (Oberholser, 1938).
In its continued route up the Mississippi flyway it arrives in Arkansas the latter part of April or the first week of May. Baerg (1930) has recorded the first arrivals in northwestern Arkansas for the years 1924: 1928 as follows: 1924, May 3; 1925, April 26; 1926, April 30; 1927, April 27; and 1928, May 1. Meanley and Neff (1953) state that the dickcissel is now one of the most common breeding passerines in the Grand Prairie region of Arkansas. The species was not previously recorded as a winter resident in Arkansas, but the authors found single birds during the winters of 1950: 51 and 1951: 52 associating with English sparrows about most of the farmyards they visited. The dickcissels fed with the sparrows in the barn lots, on straw stacks, and in open sheds on dates ranging from mid-January to April.
In Missouri (Widmann, 1907) the males arrive the fourth week of April, the females not until the first week of May, and the great bulk of the birds are present during the second week of May.
In 12 years of records taken in Buchanan County, Iowa, Pierce (1930) states that during 5 years the dickcissels arrived the first week of May while in 7 of the 12 years they arrived the last half of May. Youngworth (1933) gives the earliest date for Sioux City, Iowa, as May 5, 1928.
For Minnesota Roberts (1932) gives the two earliest records for the State as being one seen May 5,1898 at Faribault, Rice County, and one seen May 6, 1926, at Red Wing, Goodhue County. The average of 16 annual first dates, varying from May 5 to May 27, is May 18. Monson (1934) gives the earliest date for Cass County, as May 8, 1928, when they were very numerous. The average date for that county is May 29. The average arrival for 5 years at Fargo, N. Dak., is May 30 (Stevens quoted by Roberts (1932)).
Stray individuals pass on into Canada where they have been reported in most of the southern provinces: Newfoundland (Tuck, 1952; Nova Scotia and New Brunswick (Godfrey, 1954); Quebec (Lewis, 1924; Ball, 1943); Ontario (Dale, 1932; Devitt, 1935; Lloyd, 1944; Mitchell 1946); Manitoba, Criddic, 1921; Taverner, 1927; Saskatchewan, Mitchell, 1924; Potter, 1943; Houston, 1949); British Columbia (Brooks, 1923). I have been unable to find any recent published records of the dickcissel nesting in Canada, but several of the observers mentioned above have suspected the birds were breeding.
In Wisconsin the first dickcissels appear in the south-central counties early in May, but they do not reach the counties to the westward and northward to Green Lake County until the last week of May according to a spring migration map prepared by Taber (1947). According to Taber the average southern Wisconsin nesting chronology is as follows: May25 the male arrives and sings, June 2 the female joins the male, June 7 the nest is begun, June 14 the first egg is laid, June 27 the eggs hatch, and July 6 the young leave the nest. Barger (1941) gives the earliest date for Wood County, Wis., as Apr. 27, 1941, but most of his first arrivals appear after the middle of May. The dickcissel does not breed in northern Wisconsin.
In Michigan (Wood, 1951) the spring arrivals occur principally in the last 2 or 3 weeks of May. In the Toledo-Erie marsh area the species has appeared by May 9, the first arrivals averaging May 14 and the main flight May 21. The average for 5 years in the vicinity of Battle Creek is May 28. One specimen was obtained at Kalamazoo aa early as May 3, 1879. There are according to Wood only two or three dozen breeding records for Michigan, chiefly from the southernmost two tiers of counties.
The first male dickcissels make their appearance in central Illinois about the last week of April or first week of May. The males invariably sing from the time they arrive and, since they always perch in conspicuous open places such as the top of the highest weed stalk, a fence post, or telephone pole, they are not apt to escape the field observer’s notice. The arrival of the females is never heralded by song, and they are often overlooked. In general I found they arrive about 6 to 10 days after the males. Field trips made daily during the migration period at Urbana for 18 consecutive years recorded the first arrival of the males as follows: 1901, May 7; 1902, May 2; 1903, May 16; 1904, May 5; 1905, May 11; 1906, May 5; 1907, May 5; 1908, April 25; 1909, April 29; 1910, May 10; 1911, April 29; 1912, May 2; 1913, May 4:1914,April28: 1915,April28; 1916,May5; 1917,April24;and 1918, May 2. The average of these 18 years is May 3. The average of a 7-year series of records made by T. E. Musselman at Quincy, in extreme western Illinois, is April 29, 4 days earlier than those at Urbana. The earlier dates at Quincy, which is on the Mississippi River, support the view that the vanguards of the migration waves follow the large river courses.
In addition to the States included in the preceding account of the spring migration, the dickcissel also nests in the Great Plains States as far west as eastern Colorado. Individuals have strayed farther west to the western slope of Colorado (McCrimmon, 1926); to southwestern Wyoming (McCreary and Mickey, 1935); on the shore of Lake Mead, Nev. (Pulich, 1953); Grand Canyon National Park, Ariz. (Bryant, 1952), and Santa Monica, Calif. (Stager, 1949). In fact wanderers may be expected in any part of western United States. Dickcissels also nest abundantly eastward in Indiana and Ohio, and are now nesting in increasing numbers in the eastern States, especially the more southern States of the Atlantic seaboard.
Nesting: In central Illinois the first nests of the dickcissel may be found during the last week of May, soon after most of the individuals have arrived at their summer haunts. My earliest record is of a nest found May 22, 1899, in a meadow of clover and timothy near Atwood, Ill. The earliest nest reported by I. E. Hess at Philo, Ill., is one of five eggs found May 31, 1896. T. B. Musselman, of Quincy, Ill., found a nest of four eggs near a putting green on the Quincy golf links as early as May 21, 1918. As would be expected, first nesting dates are somewhat earlier in our southern States. For example, in Mississippi Charles L. Stockard (1905) reports that the dickeissels appeared late in April 1900, in a field of luxuriant vetch. During May, 14 nests were found and at least as many more could probably have been located with careful searching. Of the 14 nests 11 contained five eggs and three contained four eggs each. All were collected from May 9 to 23, 1900. In Texas Harry P. Attwater (1887) found 20 nests in a low area along the Medina River south of Antonia on May 15, 1884. Nearly all were completed, some containing four fresh eggs.
Though nests are not uncommon in Illinois in May, the dickcissel does not reach the height of its nesting season there until late June and July. Then practically every meadow in the central part of the State has several pairs of these interesting birds. The latest nesting record reported by Hess is of a nest with four eggs found Aug. 1, 1898, near Philo. My own latest record is a nest with four eggs found in a clover field near Atwood on Aug. 12, 1918. R. M. Anderson (1907) found a nest containing two eggs and two young in Winnebago County, Iowa, on Aug. 19, 1893. These late dates probably represent a second nesting attempt for the season.
The usual and most typical location for the nest of the dickeissel in central Illinois is in a thick growth of grass or other low dense vegetation. The nest, if not placed in a natural depression in the earth, is supported but a few inches above the ground. It is usually so well hidden by the rank growth of clover, alfalfa, grass, or weeds that it is difficult to locate. Meadows provide the larger number of nesting sites, but the dickeissel is by no means confined to them. The following nest situations that came under my direct observation reveal the diversity in choice that different individuals may exhibit:
Meadows or similar situations resembling meadows:
Clover 28 Timothy or other grasses 17 Alfalfa 5 Weeds and grass along fences or between cultivated fields 8 Wheat mixed with clover2 Weeds and grass along roadsides 2 Wild roses or vines growing among grass and weeds 6 Total 68 Other situations:
Hedge fences (osage orange) 5 Scrub apple tree 2 Thorn bush 2 Small crabapple tree 1 Total 10 Grand total 78 The largest number of nests (68) were found in meadows or in places containing vegetation approaching that present in the clover and grass fields. Only 10 of the 78 nests were in situations radically different from that ordinarily found in meadows. Of these 10 nests, all except 2 were found late in the season and probably represented a second nesting aLtempt, after the mowers and reapers had taken their toll of nests from the meadows and grain fields. One of the nests found in a thorn bush early in the season was undoubtedly so placed because of the wet, swampy condition of the nearby fields. The nests in trees and hedges were at heights from about 2 feet to a little more than 6 feet from the ground; the highest was in a tall osage orange hedge. Albert J. Kim (1915) found a nest with four eggs on Aug. 8, 1912, near Vinita, Okla., 14 feet up in a persimmon tree. Though nests are sometimes placed at considerable distances from the ground, these do not represent the typical or usual situation in central Illinois.
R. M. Anderson (1907) reports somewhat different nesting habits of the dickcissel in Iowa: “Many observers give the species as building its nest on the ground, but of the dozens of nests which I have examined none were directly on the ground; a few were placed in clumps of tall grass a few inches above the ground, several in Canada thistles, and the majority in small bushes and low trees, rose bushes, willows, wild crab, scrub oak, wild cherry, apple trees, etc., from a few inches to three and one-half feet above the ground. July 11: 12, 1902, found four nests in a young orchard, all in small apple trees two or three feet up *
The nests of the dickcissel are bulky and somewhat crude in general appearance, but are substantial structures. They vary little in size and shape; the average measurements of 10 typical nests are as follows: outside diameter 12.2 cm., inside diameter 6 cm. by 6.8 cm., outside depth 6.3 cm., inside depth 4.6 cm. The materials used seem to be those near at hand and vary according to the immediate surroundings. The exterior of the nest is usually composed of coarse weed and grass stems, or cornstalk fibers interwoven with a few leaves and grasses; the interior is lined with finer grasses, rootlets, or hair. Some nests may be made up almost entirely of one type of grass, including the lining. Though most nests are firm and well made, those built well above the ground are often so insecurely attached to their support that the least disturbance may dislodge them. Two nests under daily observation had to be tied to the vines in which they were built to prevent an untimely end of the young birds.
One nest was found in the process of construction. The female gathered all the materials and performed all the work of building and shaping the nest. All that the male contributed was his song, which perhaps served as a source of encouragement to his mate. The nest was completed in 4 days and the first egg was laid 2 days later. Unfortunately this nest was destroyed. Dr. Gordon C. Sauer (1953), who made a fine life history study of dickcisseJ.s near St. Joseph, Mo., discovered a nest when it was 75 percent constructed. Two days later the nest contained two blue dickeissel eggs and one brown-speckled cowbird egg, and in 2 more days on June 23, 1952, four dickcissel eggs and one cowbird egg. At noon on July 5, 1952, one dickcissel young was found in the nest which had not been present 24 hours earlier. The incubation period of this bird was 12 to 13 days. The other three dickcissel eggs and the cowbird egg did not hatch. The young bird left its nest between July 12 and July 14 at the age of 7 to 9 days.
Eggs: The eggs of the dickeissel are immaculate pale blue. The measurements of 50 eggs average 20.8 by 15.7 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 923.4 by 17.0, 21.8 by 17.5, 18.3 by 15.2, and 20.1 by 14.5 millimeters. The average weight of 20 eggs is 2.76 grams.
The number of eggs in a set varies from three to five, but four is the usual number. Of 29 nests containing complete sets of eggs, 5 had three eggs, 18 had four, and 6 had five eggs each; 3 of the 5 nests containing only three eggs were under daily observation and no more eggs were added, but one or more eggs may have been destroyed before observations were begun.
The large number of sterile eggs found was surprising; of 11 nests studied during the summer of 1918, 5 contained one sterile egg and a 6th nest had two. It was thought possible that the embryos had been killed perhaps by chilling, but examination of the unhatched eggs proved that development had never started, or at least had not proceeded to an appreciable degree. Incubation is entirely by the female. Sauer (1953) determined the incubation period to be 12 to 13 days. When the fully developed embryo is ready to emerge, the egg shell and membranes break around the entire circumference midway between the blunt and pointed ends. The break seems to be made by the exertions of the struggling embryo to straighten its neck and to extend its legs in the effort to free itself. After the egg cracks, it is only a few minutes before the young frees itself entirely. A freshly-hatched chick appears almost naked, for the meager patches of natal down while wet and matted are practically invisible.
Nesting: The study of the home life of a pair of birds that nested in the tall weeds and grass along a country roadside supplied many interesting incidents which help portray the character and behavior of the dickcissel, I made the following notes during the nesting season from blinds at close range. One nest, built about 10 inches above the ground, was composed of materials loosely interwoven among the stems of the tall grass and weeds. The tops of the grass and weeds arched over this little home, protecting the eggs and young from the direct rays of the sun and concealing them from the view of all who might pass. A barbed-wire fence that ran through the thicket also helped protect the nest from trampling by stray animals or people. The fence, as well as the nearby telephone poles and wires, provided excellent sentinel posts for the male and convenient perches for the cautious female when she went to and from her nest.
A blind was built in the tall weeds along the fence about 12 feet from the nest and completely covered with cut grasses and weeds. The day after the blind was completed the birds were conducting their home life in an apparently normal way and, so far as could be determined, they paid little attention to the blind. The female flew from the nest when I entered the blind the first time, but after a few minutes she returned to the telephone wires overhead to utter in unison with her mate the usual chirps of disapproval. The two birds continued chirping for about 25 minutes, when the female flew down to the fence close to the nest. Something seemed to arouse her suspicions, for she returned almost immediately to her mate. She now exhibited her uneasiness by flying repeatedly back and forth between the telephone wires and the fence. Suddenly, and for no apparent reason except possibly for deception, she flew far across the fields as if abandoning all desire to return to the nest. The male now ceased chirping and tuned up to his full song. In 10 minutes the female returned to the telephone wire and without hesitation flew to the fence post nearest her nest. From that point she carefully surveyed her surroundings, and especially scrutinized the blind where a human being had so recently disappeared. The male now sang louder than ever, but his mate did not utter the faintest chirp. The situation seeming favorable, she slipped into the weeds and noiselessly made her way to her nest. The birds played their parts well and without doubt their shrewdness misleads many enemies.
The birds repeated this performance on following visits to the nest, but after a few days they paid little attention to my coming and going. Nor did they seem to be disturbed by the teams and automobiles that passed along the road. Even when the driver sounded his horn directly opposite the nest the birds made no visible response. However, when an automobile or team stopped in the road near the brooding female, she invariably scooted off the nest into the grass. If the people came no nearer and their actions seemed free of suspicion, she returned to the nest; otherwise she flew to the telephone wires to chirp until they left. The female then took her usual precautions in returning to the nest, while the male seemed to sing with the purpose of attracting any attention that might otherwise be directed toward his mate.
At the time the young hatch the female’s behavior undergoes a noticeable change, though the male seems unmoved and unchanged by this important event. The female becomes extremely fidgety and excitable, yet very daring. She readily hazards many dangers she would not have faced before her parental instincts were quickened by the appearance of her young. Without the least hesitancy she will return to her nestlings while an observer stands in full view only a few yards away. When this mother bird returned for the first time after the young hatched she uttered a series of low subdued notes. She then carried the egg shells away and dropped them far from the nest. This habit, held in common with many other birds, is a regular part of the dickcissel’s housekeeping. All refuse and filth from the young birds is also immediately disposed of or carried away, so that the nest and its surroundings always present a neat and clean appearance.
The first food, a larva, was delivered to the young about 30 minutes after it emerged from the egg. The larva was crushed into small pieces which were thrust, at intervals of several seconds, into the nestling’s gaping mouth. Meanwhile the male sat on top of his favorite telephone pole and poured forth a volume of song, seemingly oblivious to what was happening in the weeds and grass below him. The following day two more eggs hatched, but the fourth egg was sterile and remained in the nest unbroken until after the fledglings left, 9 days later.
During the first 3 days the female brooded her young very closely and left the nest only to obtain food. Even during the heat of the day when the mercury rose above 900F. she clung closely to the nest. When the heat became excessive she panted incessantly and her partially spread wings protruded over the edge of the nest. She remained faithful to her family through the hottest weather, while the male did nothing but encourage her with his song. On the fourth and fifth days she spent less time on the nest, and from the sixth to the ninth days, when the ever-increasing appetites of her young demanded more and more food, she seldom lingered at the nest any length of time. After the sixth and seventh days the sprouting feathers and the contact of the young birds’ bodies with one another easily retained the high body temperature without the aid of the parent. The temperature of nestlings 6 days old which had been left alone in the nest for an hour was 1060F., normal for birds, while the surrounding temperature was only 800F.
The male dickcissel attends strictly to his own affairs and seldom meddles with the life of other birds nearby. When strangers intrude on his premises he not only leaves them alone, but often exhibits a marked timidity. One day a young kingbird alighted on the fence wire just above the dickcissel’s nest. It was followed by its parent, which continued to feed the fledgling there for more than 20 minutes.
During this time both dickcissels seemed exceedingly disturbed, but neither offered any objection nor expended any effort in defei$ing their territory.
Many birds, such as mourning doves, bobwhites, vesper sparrows, migrant shrikes, and others, came near the nest, but only once did I see the dickcissel muster enough courage to assert his feelings about an intrusion. One afternoon a foreign young dickcissel about 3 or 4 weeks old perched on the fence near the nest. The male stopped his singing abruptly, ruffed his feathers, and dashed fiercely at the innocent intruder, which flew for its life and escaped in the tall weeds and grass. This incident seems to signify that the dickcissel is ready to assert his authority over his own kind, but will not tackle a bird as large or larger than himself.
One usually thinks of the dickeissel as a finely colored male perched on a post or weed stalk pouring forth a volume of cheerful song. Such qualities have made the male diekcissel the favorite of many bird lovers, but more intimate acquaintance with the species’ domestic life reveals the less admirable side of his character. He takes no part in nest building or incubation, nor does he help his mate feed or care for the young. In fact his attitude is one of complete indifference to them. One morning as I watched a female returning to her nest with a beakful of food for her 5-day-old young, a sharpshinned hawk appeared out of nowhere and carried her off. Her mate seemingly paid no attention to the tragedy enacted in front of him, but continued singing from his regnlar post nearby. He continued to sing the rest of that day, and the next 2 days, while the young slowly starved to death.
Plumages: The natal down of the dickcissel when dry is pure white, with no traces of the brown or gray tinges so common in the down of other passerines. It grows in 12 distinct tracts on the upper surface of the young bird as follows: 3 small areas on the dorsoposterior part of the head, 1 median and 2 lateral, collectively known as the head tract; 1 tract on each scapular region; 2 smaller tracts on the dorsal side of each wing; 1 elongated tract in the middorsal line; and 1 shorter tract on each side running parallel to the middorsal tract. The ventral aspect of the body shows no down and the entire underparts remain bare until the juvenal plumage appears.
The natal down is retained throughout the period in the nest; sometimes parts of it persist several days after they leave the nest as filaments at the apices of the feathers of the juvenal plumage. The postnatal molt is usually completed at about the 9th to 12th day after hatching, 1 to 3 days after the young leave the nest.
The first feather papillae of the juvenal plumage to appear are those of the primaries and secondaries, which protrude through the epidermis of the wing the second day after hatching. All other tracts, both dorsal and ventral, are well defined by protruding papil]ae at the end of the fourth day. Those of the head and caudal tracts are the last to appear.
The growth of the feather papiliae is extremely rapid, and by the end of the sixth day those of the wing tract begin to unsheath at the tips. Unsheathing now progresses very rapidly; by the end of the 10th day the exposed tips of nearly all the contour feathers are out of their sheaths.
The growth of the tarsus, toes, and nails is practically complete when the young leave the nest, whereas the tail, which is more than 15 centimeters long in the adult, is less than one-half centimeter in length at this time. The time required for development is closely correlated with the time the bird acquires the use of the respective parts. The legs and toes are called upon to serve the bird the moment it leaps from the nest, but a long tail would be a nuisance in the crowded nest and is not essential as a rudder until flight is attempted.
The growth of most parts of the bird is rapid until the eighth day. Weight increases in the nest at the rate of almost 2 grams per day. One young that weighed 2.8 grams at hatching weighed 18 grams when it left the nest on the eight day. Growth slows after the young leave the nest; one young bird lost weight.
Each of 18 dickeissel nestlings of five broods was tagged for later identification. A number of them recaptured from 1 to 6 days after leaving the nest made it possible to complete a series of weights, measurements, descriptions, and photographs through their first 2 weeks of life. The young, though often at a considerable distance from the nest, were easily located by watching the feeding operations of the adult female. It became increasingly difficult to find them as they acquired the ability to fly or to run rapidly through the grass. A tagged bird 18 days old was collected a mile away from the nest where it was reared, a fact which explains the difficulty in securing later stages of the tagged young. Although the young dickcissel cannot fly when it leaves the nest, it acquires the ability within 2 or 3 days, and when about 11 days old is able to fly from 100 to 150 feet. When given the advantage of a start from an elevated perch~ some flew even farther at this age.
The following description of the juvenal plumage is based on a study of the young at about the time they leave the nest. The colors were determined with the use of Ridgway’s Color Standards and Nomenclature. While considerable care was exercised in comparing these colors, they are at best approximations:
Upper parts bully brown shading to sepia on the crown; feathers of the back fuscous black edged and tipped with cinnamon bull; unsheathed parts of the primaries and secondaries mouse gray to chaetura black narrowly margined with pallid neutral gray; wing coverts olivaceous black with broad margins of cream color; edge of wings, superciliary, and malar stripes light ochraceous buff, but in some younger fledglings these parts approach an orange-buff and even a deep chrome in color; chin and lower breast light buff shading to a lighter tint on the belly; breast and upper portion of flanks chamois, but in younger specimens in which the ventral feathers have just unsheathed and not been exposed to strong light the breast approaches buff yellow. No birds at this stage have black streaks in the breast feathers. The beak and legs are pale flesh color, but these parts darken as the bird grows older.
The dickcissel undergoes several changes by the 14th day. The natal down is entirely lost; this disappears, even earlier in birds that live a normal life in the grass fields where it frays away more quickly. The general coloration of this stage of the juvenal plumage is similar to that of a bird 8 or 9 days old, but is duller in tone, with none of the rich ochraceous-buff which is so conspicuous in recently unsheathed feathers. This change in color is apparently due to a chemical change caused by exposure either to light or to air or to both. The unsheathing of the feathers in a dickcissel 14 days old is so far advanced that from a casual glance it seems complete. Many feathers, however, such as the primaries and secondaries still retain a portion of their sheaths. Unsheathing proceeds slowly; even in a bird 18 days old the outer primaries are not completely freed of their envelopes.
The dorsal plumage of an 18-day-old dickeissel is very similar in color to that found in the 14-day bird described above. The ventral aspect of the older bird differs as follows: Bordering the sides of the throat two well-defined fuscous malar stripes extend posteriorly to the breast. The sides of the chamois-colored breast are distinctly streaked with fuscous. In the center of the breast, many of the feathers have narrow but distinct median fuscous stripes, all of which at 18 days are completely concealed from view by the overlapping tips of the feathers. A close examination of the breast region reveals other similarly marked feathers in various stages of development. These new feathers represent the first winter plumage, destined to replace those of the juvenal phase. The breast feathers in the first winter plumage differ from those of birds in the juvenal stage not only in color but in their coarser texture. The transition from the juvenal to the first winter plumage is not so sharply defined as the change from the nuptial to the adult winter plumage, which involves a complete post-nuptial molt. The post-juvenal molt is only partial and occurs so gradually that it is difficult to determine just when the juvenal plumage ends and the first winter plumage begins.
Birds in transition between the juvenal and first winter plumages were collected during the last week of June and the first week of August, representatives of the first and second broods respectively. A study of these specimens leads me to believe that the transition from the juvenal to the first winter plumage is more prolonged in first broods than in those reared later. No young birds were found in the completed first winter plumage before the last week of July. At this time, though a graded series showed all stages between the juvenal and the first winter plumages, most individuals could be placed readily in one of the two groups, those with complete first winter plumage or those still in the juvenal stage with few or no winter plumage feathers. This substantiates the rearing of two broods each nesting season.
The post-juvenal molt, which includes all but the primaries, secondaries, and rectrices, is well advanced in young birds 5 to 8 weeks old, but many feathers of the first winter plumage still remain undeveloped. The following description is based on five birds ranging from 5 to about 8 weeks of age. Males and females are similar in color. Crown, back and sides of the neck and rump buffy brown or olive-brown; crown streaked with fuscous-black, back snuff brown and light clay color, the feathers with large conspicuous streaks of black. Primaries, secondaries and tail feathers as described for the juvenal plumage. Greater and lesser wing coverts and tertiaries fuscous black broadly margined with sayal brown but in some specimens edged with tawny; edge of the wing and line over the eye yellow ocher; auriculars, breast and flanks huffy brown; breast and flanks streaked with black; throat and chin cartridge buff margined by malar streaks or stripes of black; broad, short maize-yellow bands lateral to the black malar stripes ; lower breast and belly light cream color; unstreaked crissum and under tail coverts light buff.
The completed first winter plumage shows the following changes: The yellow of the bend of the wing and malar and superciliary stripes is more extensive and approaches a buff-yellow or light orange-yellow. In some specimens a yellow wash extends down to the region of the belly. One female and one male bird showed a small obscured patch of chestnut brown which sharply divided the buff of the throat and the yellow of the breast. The lesser and greater wing coverts vary from cinnamon-rufous to bay. The streaks of the breast are not so conspicuous as in younger birds. In all other respects the older birds in the first winter plumage resemble those 5 to 8 weeks old.
Some of the young are partially dependent on the adults for food until they attain full winter plumage. I have often seen females at the roosts feeding young in the most advanced stages of winter plumage. In this way the family groups retain their identity even after the birds gather in large flocks before they migrate.
The first and the adult nuptial plumages are acquired by a partial prenuptial molt which involves the head, throat, and breast, but not the rest of the body nor the remiges and rectrices.
The adult male nuptial plumage has the top of the head, back and sides of the neck, the lores and auriculars pale neutral gray; crown and forehead tinged with olive ocher; an amber yellow line over the eye becomes white posteriorly; back mouse gray tinged with cinnamondrab and streaked with black; rump and tail coverts smoke gray without streaks; lesser and middle wing coverts cinnamon rufous; edge of wing empire yellow; secondaries, primaries, and rectrices fuscous and narrowly edged with pale mouse gray; malar stripe amber yellow anteriorly, broadening posteriorly into a white area on either side of a black throat patch; chin white; breast wax yellow fading to pure white on the belly and under tail coverts; mandibles dusky slate blue; the legs and feet Prout’s brown; iris dark brown. Males in nuptial plumage collected June: July show a small black patch of variable size near the middle of the yellow breast, and in all except one this spot is completely separated from the black area of the throat.
In the nuptial plumage of the adult female the upper parts are similar to those of the male, but the gray is replaced by shades of brown; crown with fine black streaks and with very little yellow; the general coloration very much duller, especially the rufous of the wings and the yellow of the breast, which are much reduced in amount as compared with the male; in three specimens the rufous of the wings is practically absent, being instead gray and fuscous, the coverts being fuscous with only a few of the feathers margined with cinnamonrufous; chin and throat white; pronounced black lateral chin stripes. bordering the maize-yellow malar stripes. In six females the black throat patch, so conspicuous in the male, is entirely lacking, but one adult female taken August 2 has a reduced patch of chaetura black on the throat which connects on either side with the lateral throat stripes. In all specimens the straw-yellow breast is finely streaked with dark brown; flanks white, washed with avellaneous and finely streaked with fuscous or brown; the primaries, secondaries, tall, bill, and legs similar to those of the male. Females collected during the late summer toward the close of the nesting season have very soiled and worn plumage; the barbs of the outer tail feathers of some August females are completely worn off, leaving nothing but the naked shafts. The plumage of the males is then only slightly worn, reflecting their small part in the rearing of the brood.
This description of the adult winter plumage of the male is based on four specimens collected in Illinois during August 1918, three specimens collected during the last week of August 1908 at Matamoros, Mexico, and one collected at Bolson, Costa Rica, Dec. 13, 1909. Two of the Illinois birds are in transitional postnuptial molt, but the others have acquired the complete adult winter plumage. This plumage is similar to the nuptial plumage, but the entire coloration is very much brighter and the color bands and patches more sharply differentiated. The gray of the pileum and neck of the nuptial plumage is replaced by a rich dark olive-brown; back snuff brown streaked with black; the rufous of the lesser and middle wing coverts a deep chestnut color; greater wing coverts broadly edged wiTh mikado brown instead of gray; white edgings of the primaries very prominent; the yellow of the breast more extensive anteriorly and posteriorly, even the middle of the belly being tinged with yellow; the yellow of the breast approaching cadmium yellow; chin tinged with cream color; superciliary and malar stripes light cadmium; the posterior part of the superciliary stripe light yellow and not white as m nuptial plumage; the black throat reduced in size and is more or less obscured by pale cream tips of the feathers; no traces of black on the lower breast; auriculars and flanks plain olive-brown; crissum or under tail coverts warm buff instead of white as in nuptial plumage.
No females in the adult winter plumage were secured. Dwight (1900) thus describes the female plumages: “The plumages and moults correspond to those of the male. In juvenal plumage females are indistinguishable from males. The first nuptial is acquired by a limited prenuptial moult. In subsequent plumages the throat remains pale brown with lateral black chin streaks without the black patch of the male and the colors elsewhere are regularly duller.” He gives no detailed description of the adult female winter plumage.
The abnormal plumages of albinism and melanism are rare in the dickeissel. Of Townsend’s bunting (Spiza toumsendi (Audubon)), which Cockrum (1952) considered a hybrid between the dickeissel and the blue grosbeak, the 1957 A.O.U. Check-List states: “Known only from the type specimen, taken May 11, 1833, [in Pennsylvaniaj by John K. Townsend. Its peculiarities cannot be accounted for by hybridism or apparently by individual variation.”
Food: The following account of the food of the dickcissel is based on the contents of the stomachs and crops of birds collected near Atwood, Ill., and on observations made in the field during the nesting season of 1918. The author is indebted to E. R. Kalmbach of the U.S. Biological Survey and to A. N. Caudell of the U.S. Bureau of Entomology for the identification of the stomach contents of 19 of the 33 birds collected. Results of stomach examinations presented by Judd (1900, 1901) and observations by others are also included. The birds obtained in Illinois for stomach examinations were collected chiefly in August, when insects and seeds form the most important part of the food of the dickcissel. These stomachs contained 68 percent vegetable matter and 32 percent animal food. Examinations by the U.S. Biological Survey (Judd, 1901) show that stomachs of 152 dickcissels collected from May to August, chiefly in Kansas, some from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Texas, contained 70 percent animal and 30 percent vegetable matter, a ratio almost the reverse of that of my birds. All but four of the Illinois stomachs were from young of the year, which may explain their higher content of vegetable matter. Young inexperienced birds are not so adept as their parents at finding and capturing insects and naturally depend on food that is more easily obtainable. Seeds, the chief and practically only vegetable matter eaten, were present everywhere in limitless quantities during August, when the birds were collected.
About 53 percent of the vegetable matter, or 36 percent of the entire contents of the stomachs, was seeds of weeds that are of no value to man, many of them a nuisance to agriculture. Of the nine species of weeds represented, two species, Chaetochloa glauca and Chaetoddoa viridis, made up 33 percent of the entire stomach contents. Syn: therisma 8ang2nuale was represented by 1.6 percent, three species of Polygonum (corLvolvulus, persicar~a and aviculare) 0.6 percent, and seeds of Stellaria media and sedge grasses were present in small numbers.
Unfortunately for the good reputation of the dickcissel, grain amounted to 32 percent of the entire contents, divided between wheat (6.5 percent) and oats (25.5 percent). No grain was found in the stomachs of adult birds. Judd’s (1901) examinations of dickoissel stomachs collected during August showed more than a tenth of the food to be millet. He states that millet, pigeon grass, and closely related species formed almost the whole of the vegetable food.
The animal matter consists of insects with traces of spiders and phalangids. The large number of Orthoptera found in the stomachs (28 percent), and the fact that at least traces of grasshoppers were found in all stomachs except one, uphold the dickcissel’s reputation as a destroyer of these noxious insects. The Orthoptera found all belong to two families: Acrididae 26 percent, and Locustidae present as 2 percent of the entire contents. Species of Melanopu~ were the commonest grasshoppers found in the stomachs. A cricket, Nemobius Jasciatus, was taken from the beak of an adult bird.
Lepidoptera, chiefly caterpillars, amounted to 3 percent; Goleoptera, though represented by traces of eight or more species, were in amounts (0.2 percent) too small to be of importance. There were traces of two flies, two species of ants and an ichneumon fly, all in small quantities.
A. A. Forbes (1882), in a study of the relations of birds to an orchard infested with cankerworms, found that 10 out of 11 dickcissels collected had eaten cankerworms, which made up 43 percent of the food eaten by the entire group. Lepidoptera as a whole composed two-thirds of the food. Butler (1898) states that caterpillars are eaten in May in the ratio of about 20 percent, while they make up 70 percent of the food of birds collected during cankerworm infestations.
The stomach contents are clearly in the dickcissel’s favor. Though 32 percent of the food of the Illinois specimens was grain, this was counterbalanced by the 36 percent weed seeds and 32 percent insects, mostly destructive grasshoppers. As the stomachs were taken after the oats and wheat had been removed from the fields for threshing, probably all the grain they contained was waste. The grain I have seen dickeissels eat in the fields before harvest time was chiefly from heads or panicles lying on the ground, which the binder cannot gather and therefore can be classed as waste.
The analyses of stomach contents reveal much of interest regarding the food of the dickeissel, but daily observations at the nests when the young are being fed supply even better evidence in the case of the dickcissel versus man. Not until we observe its feeding habits during the nesting season does the dickcissel receive the full credit it deserves as a destroyer of insects, especially grasshoppers. Judd (1900) found that 14 stomachs of nestlings contained chiefly grasshoppers and crickets. Regarding adults Judd (1901) states that stomachs collected in summer contained more crickets and grasshoppers than those of any other bird whose food habits the Biological Survey investigated.
The first food given the newly hatched dickcissels in Illinois were small green lepidopterous larvae and soft-bodied winged insects. Though the adult birds delivered scores of these larvae and insects, their stomachs contained very few. One female made regular trips every few minutes to an elm tree for bright green caterpillars 2 or 3 centimeters long (species undetermined). These caterpillars constituted probably 90 percent of the young birds’ food during their first 2 days of life. As the female averaged 10 trips an hour, she destroyed more than 100 larvae daily. On the third and fourth days she added other insects to the diet of the young: aphids, a few unidentified winged insects, and a considerable number of small grasshopper nymphs. With these additions the number of caterpillars decreased correspondingly.
From the fifth day until the young left the nest 4 days later, their food was practically all grasshopper nymphs and adults garnered from a nearby clover field they were overrunning, stripping the clover stems and leaves. During the fledgling’s last days in the nest, grasshoppers were delivered at the rate of one every 3 or 4 minutes.
A conservative estimate shows the two adults and their four young ate about 200 grasshoppers daily.
At this rate the Illinois dickeissels, estimated to number more than 1,000,000, destroyed about 100,000,000 grasshoppers in a single day during the nesting season. As Prof. Lawrence Bruner, entomologist of the Nebraska Experiment Station, estimates each grasshopper eats about one and a half times its own weight or about 0.05 ounces of grass per day, 100,000,000 grasshoppers destroy about 156 tons. Hay during the summer of 1918 brought about $30 per ton. Hence the flhinois dickeissels saved the State about $4,680 daily during the nesting season by the destruction of grasshoppers alone. Though the bird’s great value may not be fully appreciated by the average farmer, the dickeissel nevertheless is a favorite with many of them. No well-informed farmer wantonly destroys them, nor does he willingly permit anyone else to do so. This strong popular sentiment has been an important factor in their recent increase and extension of range throughout the Middle West.
In their winter habitat the dickeissels live chiefly on weed and grass seeds and grain. Alexander Skutch has sent us the following observations on their food at San Isidro del General, Costa Rica: “Along the meandering Quebrada de las Vueltas was a level of rice several acres in extent. I first saw dickcissels in some bushes early in the morning of January 26, the day when the farmer began to harvest his rice. Later in the morning I watched one of these birds eating grain at the edge of the field, as doubtless other members of the flock were doing deeper in the stand of rice where I could not see them. Despite the removal of the standing grain, the flock of dickeissels continued for the next 2 months to frequent the vicinity, possibly finding fallen grains amidst the stubble.” Near Los Amates in the Caribbean lowlands of Guatemala Skutch watched dickeissels and blue grosbeaks feeding on the pollen of bamboo flowers in tall timber bamboos near the Rio Morja.
The many dickeissels now wintering in New England have food habits similar to those of the house sparrow with which they frequently associate. Both species visit feeding stations and feeding shelves for various seeds and grain. The dickeissels seem especially fond of millet.
Economic stdtus: In a statistical ornithological survey Forbes (1907, 1908, 1921) and Gross (1921) made in Illinois in 1906: 1907 and 1909, the dickcissel ranked fifth in a list of 85 species recorded for the whole State during the summer of 1907, with an average of 32.2 birds per square mile. In 1909 it stood 11th among 117 species in abundance, with an average of 18.0 birds per square mile. As has already been stated, the dickcissel l)opulatioll fluctuates greatly from year to year, but during the 1909 low the state’s 56,000 square miles supported more than a million dickeissels. They were about equally abundant in southern and central Illinois, but north of about latitude 420, nearer their northern limit of summer distribution, their density dropped to about half as many per square mile.
In the summer of 1909 the dickeissels were distributed by crops in the following numbers per square mile: Meadow 81.2, waste and fallow 34.4, oats 21.4, wheat and rye 19.7, pasture 12.4, and corn 5.2. This indicates, as would be expected, that the dickeissel is preeminently a bird of open meadows, to which it is attracted not only by the many grasshoppers and other insects that supply much of its substenance, but also by the low dense vegetation that provides the kind of nesting sites it prefers. Meadows with the densest growths of clover and alfalfa, especially if they have a liberal sprinkling of weeds and dewberry vines, are preferred to those of timothy and other grasses. Though pastures present conditions similar to those of certain meadows, their much lower population densities of only about 12 to the square mile are explained by the continual disturbance created by the grazing stock. The waste and fallow areas, ranking next to the meadows in numbers of dickeissels per square mile, have vegetation favorable for the birds and are the least disturbed by man. There the plow and the devastating mower and binder never bring the birds’ home life to a sudden and disastrous ending.
In the grain fields the dickeissel is present in numbers intermediate between those of meadows and of pastures. The number found per square mile in oats is practically the same as that in wheat and rye fields. Of all the areas listed, the cornfields support the lowest density, because they provide neither food nor favorable nesting sites. Furthermore corn i5 cultivated most heavily during the early part of the nesting season, which is certain to destroy any nests. The small number of dickeissels found in cornfields, only five to the square mile, was almost accidental. Other areas in which the dickeissel was recorded, but in numbers too small to be important, were swamps, gardens, shrubbery, orchards, and timberlands.
Voice: The song of the dickcissel is simple, yet, like many bird notes, it is difficult to put into words. It has been written in as many ways as there have been writers to describe it, so it seems needless to contribute another to the long list of versions, a few of which are as follows: Wilson (1832) describes the song (under black-throated bunting) as consisting “of five notes, or, more properly, of two notes; the first repeated twice, and slowly, the second thrice, and rapidly, resembling chip chip che cche che.” Nuttall (in Chamberlain, 1891) states: “With us their call is ‘tic ‘tic: tsh~ tsh~ tsh~ tship, and ‘tship, t.sMp, tsh~ tsh~ tsh~ tSA~ tship.” Elliott Coues interprets it as “Look!
Look! see me here! see!” and again he writes, “the simple ditty sounds like chip-chip-chee, chee, chee.” To the Rev. J. Hibbert Langille (1894) it sounds like “chic-chic-chdac-chick-chick-chick” or “chick-tickishe -c hick-c hick-c hick.” E. A. Doolittle (1920) describes the song of a male when it first arrived as “a raspy Schreeee-schree, schree schree. P. M. Subway (1904) who made a special study of the song in Illinois writes: “His first song was like this: Dick, dick, ciss ciss sell, and this rendition proved to be his favorite production. Frequently I could hear in it: Quick, quick, sell sell sell, both songs being emphasized at the last syllable.” Amos W. Butler (1898) writes: “comes to me characteristically as five metallic sounds: something like the noise made by dropping six silver dollars, one upon the other, into one’s hand: clenk, clenk, clenk-clenk-elenk.” Robert Ridgway (1889) writes: “[They] perch upon the summiïts of tall weed-stalks or fence-stakes, at short intervals crying out: ‘See, see: Dick, Jikick-Cissel, Cissel.'” This latter is a much quoted interpretation of the song and one which has given popularity to the common name.
One can imagine the dickcissel singing almost any of the varied sets of words given above, yet to the reader who has never heard the song, some of these interpretations might be very misleading. If I were to select from the above descriptions the ones which seem best to depict its character, it would be a combination of those written by Nuttall and Ridgway, “See See: Dick! Dick! Ishe tshe ishe tship (or chisi).” The See See which serves as a prelude is very faint and heard only at close range. These preliminary notes are often omitted, and I have failed to hear some males utter them at all. The Dick! is loud, strongly accented, and repeated slowly, usually once, sometimes twice. It is followed by a rapid succession of three or four notes that sound like tshe or chee. The last note ends abruptly and is slightly different from the others, sounding more like tship or sometimes chisi or merely isl. When the bird is weary, and often in excessively hot weather, the song is simplified to Dick! Dick! -isl and sometimes merely to Dick! Dick! at irregular intervals.
Aretas A. Saunders writes in the unpublished accounts of the bird songs he studied and analyzed: “The song of the dickeissel is chattery and sibilant, and not of musical quality, though it is definitely rhythmic, and the notes can be definitely pitched. Each song consists of two parts, the first usually of two notes of the chattery type and the latter of three that are sibilant. The first two notes are short and staccato and separated by short pauses, and the latter three, though equally short, follow each other rapidly without pause. If one counts seven, evenly and rather rapidly, and then does it again in the same time, omitting the 2 and 4, so that it goes 1: 3: 567, he gets the rhythm of the song. if he says the words dick-dick &isi.s to this rhythm he has a good impression of what the song is like.
“There are many variations, however. I have 19 records collected in various localities, from southern Illinois, Oklahoma, and north to South Dakota and Minnesota. In some localities the first part of the song is higher pitched than the last. In others it is lower. In one Minnesota record the two parts are on the same pitch.
“While two notes for the first part and three for the second are the commonest forms, some records from Minnesota and South Dakota have only one note for the first and four for the last; and one record from Illinois has three notes for each part. A number of Oklahoma records have the first notes rapidly slurred, so that they sound like clip or twait or taweet and in one case, slurred downward into tleeup. The notes of the second part vary from sieiris to ~ayzayzay or tgitsit&it. From Missouri I have one record, of three first notes only, and another of four sisses only.
”The pitch of these songs varies considerably from F” to B”’ 2~ tones more than an octave. Songs are usually about 1.4 seconds in length, and vary little, but when more than the ordinary five notes are used they are longer by about a fifth of a second for each extra note.
“A harsh call-note I recorded as Ka-Icakakakakakakaka, all on the same pitch, which was B”. A call of a female bird I wrote as gzzzzt, and found it on The dickcissel begins singing as soon as it arrives m the spring; indeed, the arrival of the male newcomer is usually announced by its loud characteristic call. During the nesting season the song can be heard at nearly all times of the day, but it is by no means the first of the bird voices heard in the morning. During the early hours while waiting in my blind for the coming of dawn, the weird call of the pheasants, the booming of the prairie hens, the cooing of the mourning doves, the whistled bobwhite calls, and even the sweet notes of the song and vesper sparrows were heard long before the dickeissel added his voice to the chorus. As the day wore on and the heat increased the first voices were silenced one by one, but the dickcissel kept up his singing with an undiminished earnestness. Even at midday, when the almost unbearable waves of heat that rose from the fields drove most birds to cover, the song of the dickcissel was still heard. His earnestness and persistence are traits we are compelled to admire.
The songs of the dickcissel follow in such rapid succession and with such regularity that records of the number of calls per minute during different times of the day are interesting. For this purpose a male was selected whose mate was brooding her young in a nest a few yards from my blind. His favorite perch was a gnarled stump, the highest point near the nest. For 16 minutes, from 5:05 to 5:21 a.m., he sang 114 times, an average of 7.1 times per minute. For 16 minutes from 9:55 to 10:11 am. he sang 122 times, or 7.6 songs per minute. For 16 minutes from 12:00 to 12:16 p.m. there were 132 songs at 8.2 per minute. In the last minute the bird uttered 15 songs an average of one every 4 seconds the highest count made the entire summer.
Thus from dawn to noon the rate of repetition does not diminish, but actually increases as the day becomes warmer. When the heat was excessive (above 1000 F.) the quality of the song was greatly interfered with by the bird’s rapid respiration or panting and the song often became a repetitive tship, tship without the prelude or the usual ending.
The average number of chirps the female uttered when disturbed, taken over similar periods of time, varied from 10 to 50 per minute, depending on her state of excitement.
Though the dickcissel is not the first to begin the morning song, he is one of the latest singers at night. Even after the glow of sunset is gone I have heard his voice sound above the hoarse calls of the toads and the varied tones of the myriads of singing insects. The only bird note I heard on those prairie fields after the last dickcissel had settled for the night was the shriek of a screech owl awakening from his day nap in the tall hedge across the field.
During the first or second week of August the clover fields that resounded with dickcissel music in June and July become quiet. By mid-August you may find a number of females still busy feeding and caring for their young, but the males have deserted the nesting haunts to join others at secluded roosts. Here they change their nuptial suit for a new and brighter plumage before their fall migration. Though the birds remain several weeks longer, the male song is now silenced, and to the casual eye the dickcissels seem to have left their prairie homes.
The dickcissel is also known to sing during the winter (see Alexander F. Skutch’s account on page 186). I have never heard any of our New England winter dickcissel visitants sing, but Mrs. Lydia Gatell, Berlin, Conn., writes that a male dickcissel that remained on her premises from Nov. 22, 1950 to Apr. 6, 1951, sang frequently and with zeal, especially on stormy days.
Enemies and accidents: Dickcissel nests on or near to the ground are subject to the usual enemies: weasels, minks, skunks, coons, opossums, and especially semiwild domestic cats. Hawks and owls take their toll. I saw a sharp-shinned hawk capture a female dickcissel as she carried food to her young at a nest near Atwood, Ill.
Stevenson and Meitzen (1946) report that a dickcissel was brought to the nest of a Sennett’s white-tailed hawk.
A certain number of dickcissels are casualties of the highways. Starrett (1938) found four killed by automobiles in central Illinois, and Smith (1938) reports one killed in flight by a passing car at Sydney, Nova Scotia. Tuck found a dickcissel that had been run over by a railway train near Terra Nova, Newfoundland. James Hodges (1950) reports that a dickeissel was caught in small interlaced wires of an electric line and starved to death. ï A nest I found in central Illinois July 2,1918, in a thick cluster of grapevines 5 feet above the ground had become so badly infested with mites that the young were almost killed. I found the same mites, less abundant, in a number of nests. Nathan Banks of the Museum of Comparative Zoology identified them as a new species of Liponysua, allied to the common poultry mite.
Perhaps the greatest foe of the dickcissel, especially those that nest in clover and alfalfa fields, is the mowing machine. Cutting the first crop destroys the early nests, and the late or second nest are often victims of a second harvest. In one 20-acre field near Atwood, Ill., I found four nests, three with eggs and one with young that a mowing machine had destroyed. Spurrell (1921) notes frequent destruction of nests in Iowa by the cutting of clover fields. He found many eggs while loading hay. Destruction by mowers may be serious enough to affect materially local dickcissel populations.
Fall: The fall migration of the dickcissel has been given less attention than the more spectacular spring arrival. It is, nevertheless, quite as interesting. In August at the close of the nesting season, the dickcissels rove about for a short time as family groups. These soon unite with others, which in turn may join still larger aggregations to form roosts of several hundred individuals. In 1908 a roost that contained considerably more than 300 birds on August 20 had very few on September 1, and was deserted by September 10. A roost I watched the summer of 1918 occupied the banks of a large drainage ditch whose sides, for a distance of nearly a mile, were covered with giant ragweeds and horseweeds 8 to 10 feet high. Although the season was excessively hot and dry, the ditch contained refreshingly cool water. This and the admirable concealment the tall weeds provided made it an ideal concentration center for many dickcissels. A few could be seen feeding on the weed seeds or bathing in the ditch almost every hour of the day, but the mass of individuals came in between sunset and dark. On August 5 it sheltered only about 50 birds and on August 8 about 125. On August 10 I counted 485 adults and young, and doubtless more than twice that number were concealed by the dense growth. By August 15 a marked diminution in the numbers at the roost was perceptible, and there was every reason to believe the fall migration had begun. I had to leave Illinois at this time, and so could not record the later developments at this roost. Most dickcissels leave central Illinois by September 10 to 15, but a few stragglers may linger several days longer. My latest record is of a young male collected Oct. 2,1907.
Dates when the dickcissel was last seen in Minnesota are: Fillmore County, Aug. 20, 1888; Minneapolis, Aug. 28, 1928; Pipestone County, Sept. 8,1930; and McLeod County, Sept. 12, 1893 (Roberts, 1932).
For Wisconsin, Taber (1947) gives the following dates when birds were last seen: Rusk County, Aug. 2, 1934; Dane County, Aug. 15, 1943; Jefferson County, Aug. 17, 1939; Jefferson County, Aug. 30, 1941; and Racine County, Sept. 30, 1939. Taber states that the bulk of the dickcissel population leaves Wisconsin by mid-August.
In Michigan (Wood, 1951), the migration takes place mainly in August. Specimens were taken at Jackson Sept. 8, 1941, and in Washtenaw County Sept. 28, 1923. Birds have been noted in the Toledo-Erie Marsh until mid-August, and sometimes as late as September 10. Specimens were collected there Sept. 9, 1934, and Sept. 5, 1936.
The latest record for Buchanan County, Iowa is September 1, but the species has usually disappeared by August 15 (Pierce, 1930).
In Ohio Trautman (1940) states: “The few transients seen during the southward movement indicated that migration took place principally in late August. In this movement the bird was very inconspicuous, it remained chiefly where weeds grew in profusion.”
Otto Widmann (1907) writes of the fall migration at St. Louis, Mo.: “~ * * we sometimes see parents feeding young after the middle of August. When the breeding season closes, families gather into small flocks and are seen flying south in the early hours of the day from August 20 to September 10. To the general observer the species is rare after the middle of September, but for one who knows the roosts the last has not gone before the first of October.”
W. W. Cooke (1888) writes of the species’ fall migration in the Mississippi Valley: “In the fall of 1884 the last Black-throated Bunting [dickcissel] left Des Moines, Iowa August 29. The bulk left Mount Carmel, Mo., September 6, and the last September 20. At Unadilla, Nebr., none were seen after August 23. At San Angelo, Tex., where it is an abundant migrant, the first appeared November 6, and the last was seen November 23.
“In the fall of 1885 none were seen at Huron, S. Dak., after July 7; Iowa City, Iowa, August 29; Mount Carmel, Mo., September 20, and Saint Louis, Mo., September 26.”
Winter: Alexander F. Skutch has sent us an excellent account, of the winter habits of the dickcissel in Costa Rica. It is presented in its entirety, although a brief excerpt has already been given in the section on food. “Dickcissels reach Guatemala by the last week of August and Costa Rica by the beginning of September. During the winter months they are distributed widely over Central America, particularly in the lowlands of the Pacific side and in the interior up to about 5,000 feet. They live in close flocks of few to many individuals, and are frequently abundant in regions where rice is grown. I have enjoyed only transient encounters with them except in 1939, when I dwelt near San Isidro del General at about 2,200 feet above sea level. The little rustic cabin that I had rented for 6 months stood on a rise of ground in a bushy pasture facing the meandering Quebrada de las Vueltas, whose sluggish current was shaded by low trees and shrubs. Beyond the stream was a level field of rice several acres in extent. I first saw dickeissels in some bushes close to the house early in the morning of January 26, the day when the farmer began to harvest his rice. Later in the morning I watched one of these birds eating grain at the edge of the field, as doubtless other members of the flock were doing deeper in the stand of rice where I could not see them. Despite the removal of the standing grain, the flock of dickcissels continued to frequent vicinity for the next 2 months, possibly finding fallen grains amidst the stubble.
“As early as my first meeting with the dickcissels on January 26, I heard them deliver brief, hurried snatches of song, punctuated by their rather harsh, ‘thick’ monosyllabic call note. All through February I continued to hear their calls at sunrise, and often, too, shortest wisps of song. On February 27 I watched a male who perched on a dry weed stalk at the edge of the stubblefield, and sang a whisper-song so low that I might not have credited my ears, had I not at the same time watched the vibrations of his throat through my fieldglasses. In March this songfulness increased. Every morning, as the sun floated up above the wooded crest of the eastern ridge and sent its first cool beams through the chill gray mist which during the night had settled over the valley, the dickcissels gathered in the bushes that lined the banks of the river in front of my cabin, and on the tall weeds and shrubs in the adjoining pasture. Here the males, often several resting in the same bush, sang with zeal that increased as the season advanced and the date of their northward departure drew nigh. I have never met the dickcissel on his nesting-ground and know not what gifts of minstrelsy he may there display, but here his music was of most inferior quality: a sort of animated chirping, rising and falling, and punctuated frequently by sharper, detached chips. This homely performance was continued for minutes together; and often several birds in various parts of the pasture, not far apart, would be chanting at once.
“By mid-March the males had practically completed the prenuptial molt. Each had a bright yellow breast and belly, and on the throat a heavy black patch that on some individuals extended well downward into the yellow of the breast, with perhaps ïa few detached black feathers below the termination of the solid black gular patch.
“The flight of the dickcissels is rapid, with frequent abrupt shifts in direction. In their winter home they travel in compact, quickmoving flocks of a few or many together, which wheel and turn in characteristic fashion. No other small Costa Rican bird that I know, whether resident or migratory, flies in flocks so large and compact, which rise so high and turn so quickly; parrots may travel in even larger flocks, but there is little likelihood of confusing these relatively big and noisy birds with the small and nearly silent dickcissels; nor are the straggling, slow-moving flocks of migrating kingbirds, more constant in direction, likely to be mistaken for them. I believe that I can recognize a flock of dickcissels while they are so far distant that they appear as mere motes against the sky.
“On April 3, 1939, I saw the last of these dickcissels in the vicinity of my cabin. The following year, at a point a few miles higher up the valley, I saw a lone dickcissel, singing in flight, on April 23. By the end of the month they have disappeared from Costa Rica, but the last stragglers have been recorded in Guatemala as late as May 4.
“In the Caribbean lowlands, the status of the dickcissel as a winter resident is somewhat doubtful. In the vicinity of Tela, Honduras, Peters (1929) first met dickcissels on March 29, when he saw two perching on a fence wire beside a railroad track over which for the preceding 2 months he had been accustomed to pass six times a day. They were not seen again. Near Los Amates, in the Caribbean lowlands of Guatemala, I did not meet the dickcissel until March 28, 1932, more than a month after I began fieldwork in that region. These dickcissels were in a clump of tall timber bamboos close beside the Rio Morja, in company with numerous blue grosbeaks; and both kinds of finches appeared to be eating the pollen of the bamboo flowers. Some of the male dickcissels in this flock seemed to have completed the prenuptial molt, but others were still in transitional plumage. Although I continued to study birds on this same plantation for the next 3 months, I did not again meet dickcissels, thus strengthening my belief that inthis region they were only transients.
“Early dates of fall arrival in Central America are: Guatemala: passm, August 2(~ (Griscom). Costa Rica: Basin of El General, September 8, 1942, September 12, 1943, and September 24, 1945; Buenos Aires de Gsa, September 4 (Carriker).
“Late dates of spring departure are: Costa Rica: El General, April 3,1939, April 23, 1940; Bebedero (Carriker), April 27. Guate.. mala: passim, May 4; Uaxactun, El Peten, April 28, 1931 (Van Tyne).”
Carriker (1910), in writing of the dickcissel in winter in Costa Rica, states: “An abundant winter visitor throughout almost the whole of Costa Rica wherever cultivated or grass-lands are to be found. They usually arrive about the first week in September and some linger on till late in April before leaving. They prefer the plateau region to the lower and hotter coastal plains, where food is also less plentiful. During their entire stay in the south they always remain in flocks of from five to six up to as many as fifty at times. The rice-fields in the region west of San Jose (from Turriicares to San Mateo) are favorite localities for them.”
As stated earlier in this account, an increasingly large number of dickeissels now spend the winter in the north, especially in northeastern United States and Canada. Here they are usually seen as lone individuals or at most three to five, and are frequently associated with house sparrows, tree sparrows, and other sparrows at feeding stations. They are usually silent except for a characteristic cack, but at times may utter snatches of song. Dickeissels now also winter occasionally in the breeding areas of the Middle West.
Range: South-eentral Canada to Colombia, Venezuela, and British and French Guiana.
Breeding range: The dickcissel breeds (sporadically in eastern part of range) from eastern Montana (Miles City), northwestern North Dakota (Charison), southern Manitoba (Oak Lake, Winnipeg), northwestern and central Minnesota (Fosston, Milaca), northern Wisconsin (Alden, Kelley Brook), central Michigan (Grand Traverse, Charlevoix, and Otsego counties), and southern Ontario (Sarnia, St. Thomas) south to central Colorado (Canyon City), western Oklahoma (Kenton), Texas (except the western Panhandle), southern Louisiana (Lake Charles, Diamond), central Mississippi, and central Alabama (Greensboro, Barachias), and locally in the piedmor~t of Georgia (Atlanta, Augusta), South Carolina (Columbia, York), and central Maryland (Clear Spring, Dickerson). Formerly from Massachusetts south through the Atlantic lowlands to South Carolina.
Winter range: Winters from Micho~can (Apatzing~n) south through Central America to central Colombia (Villavicencio), southern Venezuela (Caffo Cataniapo), British Guiana (Abary River), and French Guiana; regularly in small numbers north to Arkansas, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts; casually to British Columbia, Kansas, Tennessee, Maine, and Nova Scotia.
Casual records: Casual west to Baja California (San Jose del Cabo) and California (Santa Monica, Arcata); north to British Columbia (Victoria, Vaseaux Lake), southern Saskatchewan (Old Wives Lake), eastern Ontario (Ottawa), and Quebec (Baie Johan Beetz, Anticosti Island); and east to Newfoundland (Terra Nova), Nova Scotia (North Sidney, Sable Island), Maine, mid-North Atlantic Ocean (390 33′ N, 490 58′ W), Bermuda, Cuba, Jamaica, Aruba, Cura~ao, and Trinidad.
Migration: Early dates of spring arrival are: Costa Rica: El llogar, March 25. Nayarit: Santa, April 22. Tamaulipas: April 15. Florida: Seven Oaks, April 8; Marathon, April 19. Alabama: Wheeler Refuge, Decatur, April 10. Georgia: Augusta, April 19. North Carolina: Raleigh, May 19. Virginia: Richmond, May 7. District of Columbia: May 10. Maryland: Cecil County, April 24. Pennsylvania: Carlisle, May 2. New Jersey: New Milford, May 6. New York: Branchport, May 5; Easthampton and Riis Park, May 18. Connecticut: Glastonbury, May 11. Massachusetts: Martha’s Vineyard, May 23. Maine: Bath, May 25. Louisiana: Baton Rouge, April 12. Mississippi: Rosedale, April 21. Arkansas: Fayetteville, April 29. Tennessee: Knox County, April 29. Kentucky: Versailles, April 4; Bowling Green, April 26. Missouri: St. Louis, April 19 (median of 14 years, May 1). Illinois: Urbana, April 25 (median of 20 years, May 3). Indiana: Wayne County, May 5 (median of 14 years, May 11). Ohio: Cleveland, April 18 (average for central Ohio, May 7). Michigan: Ann Arbor, May 8; Battle Creek, May 20 (median of 7 years, May 26). Ontario: Point Pelee, May 8. Iowa: Sioux City, April 6 (median of 38 years, May 10). Wisconsin: Madison, April 9; Manitowoc County, April 18. Minnesota: Fanbault, May 5 (average of 16 years for southern Minnesota, May 18). Texas-San Antonio, March 25; Bee County, April 10. Oklahoma: Oklahoma City, April 17. Kansas: northeastern Kansas, April 21 (median of 21 years, May 4). Nebraska: Brady, April 19; Red Cloud, April 27 (median of 22 years, May 12). South Dakota: Rapid City, April 12; Sioux Falls, May 14 (average of 6 years, May 26). North Dakota: Cass County, May 17 (average, May 29). Manitoba: Winnipeg, June 4. New Mexico: Santa Fe, May 7. Wyoming: Wheatland, May 20. Alberta: Nanton, April 24.
Late dates of spring departure are: Colombia-Santa Marta Region, May 1. Honduras: Tegucigalpa, April 24. El Salvador: Divisadero, April 12. Chiapas: May 13. Tobasco: Balanc~n, May 15. Quintana Roo: Laguna Chacanbacab, May 15. Florida: Key West, April 30. Maryland: Prince Georges County, May 22. Illinois: Chicago, June 2. Ohio: Buckeye Lake, median departure, May 30. Texas: Central Coast, May 13; Dallas, May 29.
Early dates of fall arrival are: California: Joshua Tree National Monument, September 19, Texas: Dallas, August 21; Central Coast, August 28. Ohio: Buckeye Lake, median arrival, August 25. Mississsippi: Saucier, September 17. Nova Scotia: Bon Portage Island, August 19. New Brunswick: Macbias Seal Island, August 20. Maine: Brunswick, August 13. New York: Blythewood, Long Island, August 25. New Jersey: Beach Haven, August 27; Island Beach, August 31 (median of 5 years, September 13). Maryland: Ocean City, September 1 (median of 8 years, September 16). Florida: Century, August 19. Sinoaloa: Colmoa, September 9. Veracruz: August 23. Chiapas: Ocuilapa, August 23. El Salvador: Divisadero, September 24. Colombia: Santa Marta Region, September 17.
Late dates of fall departure are: British Columbia: Victoria, November 16. California: Arcata, November 19. Wyoming: Sheridan, September 7. Colorado: Boulder, September 30. Arizona: Tucson, September 11. New Mexico-Los Alamos, November 19. North Dakota: Cass County, September 19 (average, August 25). South Dakota: Faulkton, October 1. Nebraska: Holstein, October 4. Kansas: Clearwater, October 6. Oklahoma: Cleveland County, September 29. Texas: Dallas, October 22; Sinton, October 12 (median of 6 years, September 28). Minnesota: Hutchinson, September 12. Wisconsin: Trempealeau, September 6. Ontario: Point Pelee, September 20. Michigan: Washtenaw County, September 28. Ohio-Columbus, September 27 (median of 40 years, August 25). Indiana: Wayne County, August 25. Illinois: Rantoul, September 30. Missouri: St. Louis, October 15 (median of 14 years, October 2). Kentucky: Harrison County, September 19. Arkansas: Rogers, September 6. Mississippi: Saucier, September 30. Louisiana: Baton Rouge, November 15. Nova Scotia: North Sydney, December 3. New Brunswick: off Grand Manan, September 23. Quebec: Gasp6, October 18. Maine: Bowdoinham, October 25. Massachusetts: Martha’s Vineyard, November 28. Rhode Island: Middietown, October 28. Connecticut: Pomfret, December 1. New York: Water Mill, October 25; Tiana Beach, October 24 (median of 5 years, October 13). At sea in North Atlantic Ocean: 39O33~ N, 49058! W, November 5. New Jersey: Trenton, November 25. Pennsylvania: Atglen, October 29. Maryland: Unity, November 22. Virginia: Charlottesville, October 6. Georgia: Macon, October 8. Alabama: Dauphin Island, October 20. Florida: Leon County, October 31. Sinaloa: Rosario, October 28.
Egg dates: Illinois: 100 records, May 17 to August 5; 50 records, June 3 to June 20.
Oklahoma: 15 records, May 14 to June 20; 10 records, June 1 to June 8.
Texas: 19 records, April28 to July 7; 10 records, May 12 to June 15.