Saturday, June 16, 2012

Dickcissel

This year seems to be a good one for dickcissels in Rice County. During a recent stroll, Erika and I easily saw several in the Carleton College Arboretum prairie. I have previously blogged about this species' fascinating biology. Their distinctive call and plumage make the males easy to identify. Identification of the females, such as in the photograph below, can be more difficult.

The female is perched on White Wild Indigo, a common wildflower in the Carleton prairie. This plant is important  for a number of moths and butterflies, both for feeding adults and growing caterpillars. White Wild Indigo is, however, poisonous to mammals and can seriously poison livestock (Illinois Wildflowers). Because of prairie conversion to agriculture, this wildflower is listed in Minnesota as a species of Special Concern. The species is common in the restored Carleton Prairie and is often sold in native seed packets for home landscaping (Minnesota Wildflowers).

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