Dickcissel breeds in the central United States and winters in Central and South America. It is highly migratory, and funnels through Texas by the thousands as it returns to its breeding grounds in April and May. It is somewhat nomadic in June, and then passes back southward in August, September, and October.
Dickcissel breeds in tall grass prairies on the Great Plains and Upper Midwest, and like other grassland breeders, the edges of its range are relatively blurry (compare the breeding ranges of Brown-headed Nuthatch and Western Tanager to see how sharply defined the edges of the range can be in certain evergreen forest breeders). Grasslands suitable for Dickcissel are most prevalent in ‘breadbasket’ states like Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, and northern Texas, and these areas are highlighted on these maps as regions of high occurrence. But notice how the species appears in small patches at the fringes of the range as well. Eastern Colorado, central Minnesota, portions of North Carolina, and even the Eastern Shore of Maryland, all appear as locations where Dickcissels occur in June and July. Dickcissels are opportunists, as are most grassland birds, and respond readily to the appearance of appropriate habitat. Almost all North American grassland specialists are declining, since native grasslands are increasingly urbanized, converted to agriculture, or regenerating to scrubland or forest. But these occurrence maps provide an indication of management possibilities: if grasslands are created anywhere within the wider periphery of the range, then Dickcissel may respond favorably. A good example is Chino Farms, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, a site renowned for its grassland management. Chino now supports the highest density of breeding Grasshopper Sparrows and Dickcissels in the region. See the Chino Farms bar chart to learn more.