our first snow of the season brought…the snow bird!

I was looking out the window this morning to assess the damage from the wind we had experienced all day yesterday and last night (compliments of Hurricane Sandy!) when I noticed a small flock of dark-eyed juncos feeding at the edge of the woods. This winter visitor is commonly called the “snowbird” and, coincidentally, we had our first light snowfall of the season last night.

IMG_1657The dark-eyed, slate-colored, or northern junco (ornithologists just can’t seem to be able to make up their minds what to call these birds!) is a rather striking bird in the sparrow family – this picture doesn’t do them justice! For the most part ground-feeders, they prefer to eat flower and grass seeds or the seeds that fall from our feeders. This species has a definite social hierarchy (the so-called “pecking order) and are fun to watch as they scrap with each other over the food.

These amiable little birds are part of the larger winter flock of songbirds that forage the fields and will be with us until late spring when they migrate north to their breeding grounds.

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7 thoughts on “our first snow of the season brought…the snow bird!

  1. What a sweet item to read after viewing so much storm damage and feeling down about folks on the coast.

  2. I’m watching the news now and the prolonged punch from Sandy. I feel so blessed when I see the devastation all along the coast. Nature is one of the things that keeps me grounded and positive in times like this.

    • I think often about a Rachel Carson quote: “There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” One of my favorites.

  3. I love juncos. Ours only left a week or so ago. We mark the beginning of the snow season with they’re departure. I’m curious. Do yours look like the photo? We have a different subspecies where the back is just as grey as the head. I can remember where the dividing line between the different subspecies are.

  4. I checked Cornell’s website and found that there are two forms of the northern or dark-eyed junco: the “slate-colored” junco of the eastern United States and most of Canada, which is smooth gray above; and “Oregon” junco, found across much of the western U.S. with a dark hood, warm brown back and rufous flanks. I think the picture is actually the western sub-species.

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