Opinion Column

Rare bird makes only second appearance In the Upper Ottawa Valley in 38 years

Ken Hooles

By Ken Hooles, Daily Observer

On May 12 columnist Ken Hooles snapped this photo of a Dickcissel at the feeder of Brian and Judy Mohns of Black Bay.

On May 12 columnist Ken Hooles snapped this photo of a Dickcissel at the feeder of Brian and Judy Mohns of Black Bay.

During spring migration, you just never know what bird may appear at your bird feeder. On Thursday, May 12, a rare mid-western bird called a Dickcissel arrived at the feeder of Brian and Judy Mohns of Black Bay. This bird stayed just one night but long enough for Rob Cunningham and me to confirm the bird sighting and photograph it for our county records. This is only the second record of this bird in our area; the last sighting of Dickcissel was 38 years ago on October 1, 1978, by Bill Walker, formerly of Deep River.

The Dickcissel (Spiza Americana) gets its name from its familiar call of 'dick-dick-dick-cissel.' It is normally found in grassy or weedy fields and tall grass prairies that have scattered scrubs, trees, or hedgerows.

This bird is generally the size of a House Sparrow but has a slender and slightly longer bill. It is sometimes mistaken for a small Meadowlark. This bird has plain gray-brown cheeks, yellow breasts, yellowish eyebrow, and a white chin and white under parts. The male, especially during breeding season, has a black bib on the chest underneath its white throat.

During the spring and summer, the Dickcissel tends to be solitary or found in pairs. In the fall, it joins large groups of birds during migration. The male Dickcissel is often seen in the spring singing from a high perch and in flight. This bird mainly eats insects, grains, and seeds. During winter and migration it is seen feeding at bird feeders.

The Dickcissel is primary polygamous, or in other words, has several mates. The nest of the bird is built by the female and is usually located in a low tree or bush anywhere from one to six feet above the ground. The nest is made of grasses, stems and leave and is lined with rootlets, grasses and hairs.

The Dickcissel has one to two broods per year. The eggs of the Dickcissel are incubated by the female for 12-13 days. The young remain in the nest for another seven to 0 days and are fed by the female. The male of the species plays a very limited role in the process.

As previously stated, this bird is found in the mid-west from the southern prairies to Texas and parts of Mexico. It is considered a rare occurrence in both the east and west coasts, and it is very rare for our area. Let's hope it will not take another 38 years to visit again.

On the local scene, the spring migration continues in full force. Despite the recent cool weather, there have been many new arrivals. These include several song birds like Baltimore Orioles, Blue-headed and Red-eyed Vireos, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, Least and Great-crested Flycatchers. We also have had several more of the Warbler family including Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green, Blackburian, Black and White, Common Yellow-throat, Northern Parula, Nashville and others. In our swamp areas, American Bitterns and Virginia Rails have arrived.

Over the next two weeks, more of the second wave of migrants, the seed eaters, will enter our area. These include Indigo Buntings, Veery, Swainson's Thrush, Alder Flycatchers, the rest of the Swallows, and other warblers like Golden-winged and Magnolia.

At the moment, I have had no reports of Horned or Red-necked Grebes on our lakes and rivers, or any shorebirds on our beaches or mudflats.

Back on April 20, Dan Krantz of McGregor's Hill area had one of the area's first reports of Ruby- Crowned Kinglets.

Between May 11-14, I had several reports of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. These included reports from Tony Cowan of Killaoe, Charlotte Sunstrum of Allumette Island, Liz Cunningham of Barren Canyon Road, and Wendall McLaughlin of Beachburg Road.

On May 12, Neil Melancon of Pembroke was quite pleased to report that his House Wren had returned to his yard.

Finally, on May 15, Maureen Moss of Lapasse informed me that she had a Barrow's Goldeneye Duck in the bay in front of her home. Nice photo, Maureen!

Please call me with your bird sightings at 613-735-4430, or email me at hooles@bell.net. For more information on upcoming nature events and other links on nature, just 'Google' the Pembroke Area Field Naturalists' website.

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