In his early career in Barnsley, he played club cricket in the same team as Geoff Boycott, and journalist and chat show host Michael Parkinson, who became a lifelong friend. In 1956, he signed up with his home county, Yorkshire. Between 1956 and 1964, Bird played first class cricket as a batsman for Yorkshire and Leicestershire in the English County Championship. After his county career, he coached and played league cricket before becoming an umpire.
Little known is the fact that he inaugurated the Sloggers League at Reading University, which is still in existence today.
Bird's attention to detail turned nasty at the centenary Test at Lord's in 1980, between England and Australia. Although the Saturday of this particular match had mostly pleasant sunshine, Bird and his fellow umpire, David Constant, refused to let play start because of the previous night's rain; parts of the outfield were still too waterlogged, according to the officials. Angry MCC members scuffled with Constant as he and the team captains returned to the Long Room after their fifth pitch inspection. The two captains, Ian Botham and Greg Chappell, had to intervene to protect Constant. Bird however was still on the pitch at the time according to his own recounting of the event in his book. When play finally started at 3:45 pm, police had to escort the umpires through the Long Room and on to the field. Thankfully, Bird was never really involved in anything more of this nature for the rest of his Test umpiring career.
One of his strengths was that he was able to manage and earn the respect of some of the more volatile players in the game, sometimes by using his infectious humour. He was also known as being eccentric, famously arriving at a ground five hours early as the Queen was to visit that day.
At the beginning of his sixty-sixth and final Test in 1996, the two teams - India and England - formed a 'guard of honour' as he came out, and he received a standing ovation from the crowd. Bird, an emotional man, was in tears. Two years later, in 1998, he stood in his last county match.
He came out of retirement in January 2007, to umpire in the XXXX Gold Beach Cricket Tri-Nations series which involved cricketing legends from England, West Indies and Australia which took place at Scarborough Beach in Perth, Australia.
Bird went on to write his autobiography simply titled My Autobiography (with a foreword by Michael Parkinson), which Bird claims has sold over a million copies. Bird set up the Dickie Bird Foundation to help disadvantaged under 18s achieve their potential in sport.
A six foot statue of Dickie is to be erected in Barnsley in his honour near the place of his birth.