April 10, 2023
Dickcissel: Center Stage Songbird
- as seen by -Julie Larsen
It is nearing sunset as we arrive at the Joseph H. Williams Tallgrass Prairie Preserve just north of Pawhuska, Oklahoma. The Wildlife Conservation Society’s video team and I are excited at the promise of exceptional wildlife watching throughout these grasslands.
We stop to appreciate the acoustics of more than 2,500 American bison including bulls, cows, and reddish-orange calves. Their rumblings resonate across the rolling hills and valleys. We are inspired. The videographers begin to record audio of this undisturbed moment.
Suddenly, a persistent dick-dick-ceessa-ceessa sound breaks the serenity. A smallish songbird puffs out his sun-colored chest and sings this distinctive song to announce he is just as much a part of the prairie as his bovine companions.
The dickcissel (Spiza Americana), so named for his specific style of crooning, belts out tune after tune from a nearby bush. It is likely that he recently arrived from southern wintering grounds and is establishing territory for the summer breeding season.
This chunky bunting is commonly seen across the middle of the continent, and a pleasant surprise when spotted in pastures and fields through the central and eastern United States according to Cornell’s All About Birds.
The dickcissel continues his repertoire of now recognizable notes. We turn in unison and point our cameras and microphones toward this songbird that has taken center stage on the tall grass prairie.
EDITOR’S NOTE: To watch and listen to the dickcissel, check out WCS Staff Videographer Jeff Morey’s video and audio here.