Thursday, December 23, 2010

Must be winter--Juncos are here

A Dark-eyed Junco lazes on a red oak branch
There are some signs of winter that cannot be mistaken, even in the Arkansas hills when the temperature dances between 30- and 60-degrees, with some exception.

I just noticed this morning the Dark-eyed Juncos, have returned, though they have probably been here for a while. Either they were busy foraging deep in the woods, or I simply hadn't noticed. At any rate, they are here in abundance now, hopping around the ground, searching for food.

Generally, Juncos scurry on the ground, feasting on seeds thrown from the bird feeder by some of their less-tidy cousins.

Juncos are actually sparrows and are very common here.

They are sometimes called "snowbirds," since winter is when they appear. They do not breed here. That takes place in the northern reaches of the U.S. and Canada where these Juncos will head back in the Spring. When I no longer see them, I know it is a sign of my favorite season of all--Spring.

I love Spring so much that I consider the Junco's migration here as a sign of Spring, for I know they are here for only a short time. Spring Fever always kicks in for me around this time, just after the Winter Solstice when the days begin to get longer and I know Spring is next! I suppose I suffer from winter denial, especially since Arkansas does not have an abundance of snow. After growing up in the Midwest, winter means snow to me. It is easy to be in denial about winter here, which is one of the many perks of living here.

Juncos are small enough that they could fit into the palm of your hand, though I haven't tried that yet. Gazing down upon them from a window, they look like plain, dark-colored birds. That is until you get a glimpse of their pure white belly. What a surprise to see the dark top half of the bird is the total opposite on the bottom half. It is almost like this is a yin and yang bird.

The sounds the Juncos make are as endearing as their appearance. They chirp while they flit around on the ground; perhaps alerting others to the food they've found. 

I enjoyed seeing these birds as they always add to my bird-watching and bird-feeding enjoyment.