Saturday, April 16, 2011

Birds in Review Part XXXIV 'A Bird Parade' Slate-colored Dark-eyed Junco

Did you know that Juncos are actually Sparrows? I confess I did not or I should have included them in my Sparrow post. Here in the northeast we have the Slate-colored Junco (J. hyemalis hyemalis) or Slate-colored Dark-eyed Junco. We all see these tidy grey and white birds flitting about on the ground in our gardens. Out west you will notice different coloration in the Juncos. 

Juncos spend the late fall, winter and early spring all throughout the United States and mostly fly up to Canada to breed. Some Juncos will breed in more mountainous regions in the northeast and parts of the western United States. I enjoy hearing and seeing Juncos when they arrive in the late fall, overwintering until early spring. Their return to the gardens and forest each fall is like a beacon announcing the coming of winter. It is comforting knowing they will be spending the colder months with me. I notice them along the garden or forest floor searching for seeds or insects. During the breeding season they are mostly vegetarian but will supplement their diet with a variety of insects through the remaining days of the year. These Dark-eyed Juncos breed close by at a slightly higher elevation, where the female will build her nest on the ground and use her body to help form the cup. 

Here you get a glimpse of their white-edged tail feathers that will flash as they fly. They dash about chasing one another as spring opens to warmer days, which makes it very hard to capture their portraits. 

It is very important to leave stalks of plants standing, allowing Juncos to gather every possible seed during the snowy months.

Juncos have a variety of calls and songs. Both male and female will sing and sometimes their long loud trills can be identified and heard from a good distance away. You can hear them here.

A familiar sighting of Juncos dotting the garden floor harvesting small insects and worms. Often there is a flock and when alarmed they all fly up in a flash with white-tail feathers flickering. 

Junco colors are similar to the swelling buds of Magnolia as gray sepals give way revealing tender white petals within. 
I often see Junco colors reflected in nature. 

Spring days here are sometimes misty and gray bringing needed April showers.

The little Iris reticulata wear drops of rain like jewels.

Hellebores are swelling and dripping in mysterious beauty.

Every drop of mist is absorbed and savored by countless twigs, sepals and petals excited by the rush of gushing streams of sappy life flowing through their veins.

Carpets of fading snowdrop blooms cling to tiny teardrops of ephemeral watery life. 

Misty landscapes offer gateways to enchantment, as the land and gardens breathe out new life into vernal, mystical miracles . . .  mirroring harmonies within a cosmos of microcosmic metaphors.
 Disquiet doorways of expansive thought open into compassionate hearts and minds that feel and care for those of the world who suffer, while others are free to stroll . . . though feebly at times . . . through paradise not yet lost. 

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