Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Joyful Juncos

This week there have been about 20 dark eyed juncos around my yard. They are exuberant and joyful as the feed and fly through the shrubbery.

Juncos are migrating through this area but are in no great hurry. Juncos can be observed quite late into fall and early winter. They are sometimes counted in the Christmas bird count here. For now they find an abundance of food. They eat seeds and insects found on the ground. They scratch with both feet at the same time so this is a very energetic action. These days they seem to fly at each other and chase through the bushes. The chase is usually brief. Juncos have two or three outer tail feathers which are white so when they fly there is brilliant flash of white. At most times of the year the junco is a very quiet, hard to notice bird. You often hear them rather than see them. If you stand still, they may come right up to you as one did to me when it fed less than a meter from my foot.

Juncos belong to the same family as our native sparrows. At one time they were identified as two separate species...the slate colored and the Oregon. Now they are considered as one species with some variation in color. Juncos are dark gray on top and have a white or off white belly. There is a very definite line across the breast which separates the gray breast and white belly. Some have a definite brown tinge in the gray. The females are a lighter gray and the young are streaked so you will find a certain amount of variation in the same flock of birds. See Sibley's for detailed descriptions of juncos.

Juncos have a habit of appearing at or feeders in very inclement weather. Our weather has been much cooler and windy this week. Therefore , I have been entertained by some energetic, joyful migrating juncos