I confess that I'm a late bloomer when it comes to appreciation of the richness of the midwestern prairie. I was always an avid hiker and camper, but to me wilderness meant the forests of northern Michigan, or the canoeing paradise of Minnesota's Boundary Waters. Prairie was that empty space between forests. OK, pretty flowers sometimes, but in general, not much happening.

Pardon, Madame et Monsieur Dickcissel. You are colorful proof that the prairie is anything but ennuyeux!


Meandering through a tall-grass prairie where Dickcissels have set up home, there is no missing them--especially the males. They will perch atop a stalk, or cling to a bit of last year's dried stems, and belt out their 6-beat song that some people claim sounds like "Dick, dick, ciss, ciss. ciss, ciss." (Some people have overactive imaginations.) In the early morning, while the dew is still on the spider webs, and the low sun strikes the Dickcissel on its throne above the swaying grasses, this beautiful bird is like a mini-sunrise.


Interesting ornithological tidbit: In my reading, I learned that the male Dickcissel is a very caring parent. For example, it has been documented that if the female--who sits non-stop on the eggs during the incubation period--is ever scared off the nest by a predator, or maybe a human with a weed-wacker, the male will chase and pester her until she returns to the nest. What a guy!

Dan's Feathursday Feature is a weekly contribution to the COS blog featuring the thoughts, insights and pictures of Chicago birder, Dan Lory on birds of the Chicago region.