Forget about Punxsutawney Phil. When you see a dickcissel, you can bet the cold days of winter and spring are behind us.
Like harbingers of summer, dickcissels, which winter in Central and South America, return to the Ada area around the beginning of May, sometimes late April.
The dickcissel prefers open grassland and often perches on flower stems, shrubs and small trees in fields across the state and sings the day away in search of a mate. The dickcissel has a melodic whistling note of, “peep, peep, peep, sip, sip, sip.”
Dickcissels are sparrow-sized, and their colors resemble meadowlarks. Males have rich yellow that covers the chest and also yellow around the eyes. Males also have black plumage down their chests that resembles a beard. Females do not have these “beards," have less yellow than males and are slightly duller overall.
Dickcissels eat seeds and insects. They nest low to the ground in shrubs and dense grass. Unfortunately, the male dickcissel doesn’t do a whole lot as far as domestic duties. The female does most of the work, as far as building the nest and rearing the young.
Dickcissels will gather together in huge flocks just prior to fall migration. Although dickcissels winter far south, occasionally, some individuals stay in the United States all year.