A Couple of Juncos
There they are again ... little birds, about six inches long. When they came down from the ornamental pear tree to forage on the ground, I saw flashes of white.
Now I see that they all have white margined tails. I wonder if that characteristic makes them vulnerable to predators. Maybe, but this small flock seems to be doing fine. They scratch in the leaf litter. Their legs look pinkish but the feet are dark. But most striking, the bills are all pink.
There are at least two varieties in the flock. One of the birds has a white belly and is otherwise all dark, although the head is darker than the bird's back. I check the copy of "Sibley's Guide to Birds" — the dark one would be the slate-colored junco.
Another one has a dark head. No, more like a dark hood with the rest of the body dark, rusty-brown and the breast is white. It's labeled the Oregon form. The flanks look orangish. And Sibley shows a total of six populations with variations of plumage including the white-winged.
It is much like the slate-colored but has two white wing bars, and it occurs from South Dakota's Black Hills through Wyoming, western Nebraska, and eastern Colorado. I've lived in Wyoming and eastern Colorado but I've never seen this bird.
I think of all the things that I missed before I was a "birder"! And Sibley also pictures a yellow-eyed junco which lives to our south in Mexico.
All of the others are listed as "dark-eyed juncos," so the eye color is diagnostic. The common name "Junco" and the scientific name both refer to a small bird that lived within the reeds, and Latin for reed is "iuncus." The yellow-eyed is Junco phaeonotus (Greek meaning brown-backed). But all of the dark-eyed juncos are Junco hyemalis referring to their northern migrations.
A noisy car whizzes by and my juncos are gone! But they'll be back since they're regular winter visitors. I'm likely to see more of the other populations soon, and that will become another column for the Delta County Independent.blog comments powered by Disqus