Dickcissel Bonanza

Prairie Dickcissel, Attwater Preserve, Texas

Dickcissel, Attwater Prairie Chicken NWR, Texas

I grew up in states that were once considered the Great Plains of America and are now less than one tenth of one percent prairie.  Therefore, when I find American prairie, I treasure it.  So last month on a visit to Texas, I sought out this magnificent prairie preserve.


Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge is about a one hour drive west of Houston.  In Houston for a family reunion, I visited the Refuge when the spring wildflowers were still in bloom and it was incredibly magical.


Prairie,-flowersIt’s a funny thing about grassland birding, the more prairie-like it is, the harder it is to see the prairie birds.  You hear their chirps and clicks in the tall grasses, are dazzled by their melodious songs, but all you see is grass and wildflowers waving in the wind.


There are hundreds of birds in here

There are hundreds of birds in here

The Refuge’s namesake bird, the Attwater prairie chicken, was nowhere to be seen that day.  The male’s mating display is a spectacular flashy, booming phenomenon, but it happens earlier in the spring, and after that they are nearly impossible to see. Also, this bird is unfortunately nearly extinct.




Fortunately for us, the Refuge was instead experiencing their spring influx of migrating dickcissels.  A grasslands song bird, they breed in the central U.S..  As a California resident, I have only seen about three dickcissels in my whole life.  The timing was just right with the migration and their breeding cycle.  I saw SO MANY dickcissels fluttering about that day.


We saw hundreds of males perched on top of reeds and tall grass singing their hearts out, impressing their future mates.  Dapper in their spring breeding plumage, it was a dickcissel bonanza.    It was absolutely heavenly!


Photo credit:  Athena Alexander


31 thoughts on “Dickcissel Bonanza

  1. Those are great moments to remember forever Jet! You’re fortunate to have experienced them! 🙂 Nice photos too!

  2. less than one tenth of one percent prairie, that’s sad…
    Thank you for the link, Jet! Looks like it’s very close to Corpus Christi.

  3. Beautiful prairie Jet. Love all the wildflowers. It is really rare to see the dickcissel here, but there have been sightings. I would love to see them myself. I always associate them with western states, but they do cover a large range. I agree on finding the birds in grasslands. Many are there and can’t be seen. Now the birds are nesting and they are rarely seen or heard like a couple of weeks ago.

  4. Nice expansive views over the beautiful wild flowered prairies,dear Jet! So sad they become less and less.I like the slim dickcissel bird,but I was totally astonished by the appearance of the Attwater prairie-chicken; it looks so funny ! Love , Doda 🙂 xxx

  5. Glad that I recalled this post of yours…. This past weekend I saw my first Dickcissels ever at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa. They are ever-present throughout the restored prairie. Along with the buffalo and elk, I was very pleased to see these.

    • My smile is big as I type this, happy that you had the pleasure of the Iowa prairie and that my post about the dickcissels clicked a tick in your thoughts. Many thanks, Cnawan, for your comment. 😀 😀

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