Breeding Bird Atlas 2 Additional Accounts



Spiza americana

When the habitat was appropriate, the Dickcissel, or Black-throated Bunting, as it was historically known, was somewhat common in Massachusetts. As forests were cleared for farming, Dickcissels expanded from their historic breeding grounds in the central United States and colonized the eastern seaboard. “Their note is constantly heard from every level field of grass or grain,” reported Dr. William Peabody to the state legislature in 1839. The 1830s probably represented the heyday of Dickcissel abundance in Massachusetts, however. By the 1860s, with the rapid movement of Massachusetts workers away from farms and into factories, the Dickcissel began its regional retreat to points west. By the 1870s, the species was considered rare in Massachusetts, and only one breeding pair could be found, at World's End Farm in Hingham in the 1880s (Allen 1878). By 1908, State Ornithologist Edward Howe Forbush was dumbfounded by what had happened to this once-common bird. Despite some irregular appearances in the Bay State through the twentieth century, there was no suggestion of breeding by this species in the Commonwealth during Atlas 1. A singing Dickcissel was recorded at Massachusetts Military Reservation in 2009, but the species was not Confirmed as a breeder during Atlas 2.