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February 2, 2013 / Leslie

Weekend Birding: A Favorite Winter Visitor

One of my favorite winter migrants is the Dark-eyed Junco, a cheerful little sparrow. Most Juncos breed in Canada and Alaska and migrate to the US for the winter with only a few populations staying in the same area year-round. Each year their October arrival in my yard reminds me that winter is on the way.

This little guy in the photo below was only too happy to pose for me on the deck rail as I leaned out an open 2nd floor bedroom window.


There are 15 different geographic variations in plumage color in the Dark-eyed Junco. The most common are the “slate-colored” junco of the eastern US and Canada, and “Oregon” junco, found in the western U.S. The slate-colored is mostly gray with white underparts and the Oregon has a dark gray hood, pale peach flanks and rusty back. Alyce had a nice picture of an Oregon Junco last week. The ones visiting me are the slate-colored variety.

Dark-eyed Junco

In the photo on the right you can see the distinctive white tail feathers typical of the slate-colored form. When the bird takes flight there is usually a flash of those tail feathers making them easy to identify from a distance.

Juncos are friendly little birds that readily come to backyard feeders in the winter. They can often be seen foraging on the ground with other sparrows. They are one of the most frequently reported birds by participants in Project Feederwatch.

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce at At Home With Books. Visit her blog to see more great photos or add your own.

© 2012 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.



Leave a Comment
  1. laurelrainsnow / Feb 2 2013 10:13 am

    I really like the one with wings spread out, as if ready to taste his freedom. Thanks for sharing! Enjoy your weekend.


  2. Marie / Feb 2 2013 10:17 am

    Great photos! They remind me of little guys in tuxedos. Juncos in our area area a sign of the changing seasons. We get hoards of them in the fall just before winter sets in and again in the late winter just before spring arrives. If you see juncos, a big weather change is near.


    • Leslie / Feb 2 2013 11:36 am

      They’re my wake-up call for winter and when they leave, spring is here. Even though I dislike the cold I’m always sad to see them go.


  3. BermudaOnion / Feb 2 2013 10:37 am

    Wow, you go to great lengths to get your gorgeous photos! I can’t believe you have snow!


    • Leslie / Feb 2 2013 11:33 am

      We got one inch of snow a few weeks ago. It melted the next day, which is fine by me and just the way I like my snow. We’re getting another inch or two today. No complaints here as everyone knows I’m not a fan of winter.


  4. Jayme / Feb 2 2013 11:50 am

    What a beautiful shot of the little guy’s wing.


  5. sim@chapter1-take1 / Feb 2 2013 12:15 pm

    They look friendly. The starkness of the junko against the snow make these look like B&W compositions. Beautiful. And ditto with the snow. I spent my formative years in Niagara Falls, Canada where it can get so cold in the winter the falls can freeze. Hatefully cold! I wonder if that happens anymore as global warming has def. warmed up everyone’s winters. At least that’s what I hear.


    • Leslie / Feb 2 2013 1:02 pm

      Brrrrrr. Niagara Falls can get a bit colder than Chicago. The last two winters here have been mild, and because temps keep popping back up above freezing, any snow we get has melted rather than sticking around.


  6. MarthaE / Feb 2 2013 12:58 pm

    Gorgeous shots! That first one looks like he is just ready to wink at you.


    • Leslie / Feb 2 2013 1:02 pm

      He was watching me take the photos out the window!


  7. Alyce (@AtHomeWithBooks) / Feb 2 2013 1:36 pm

    He does look different than the juncos we have here. I am so very impressed with the shot of the tail feathers. I took many photos and couldn’t get one of the flash of white. My husband did manage to get one by using the action setting (multiple photos in a row), but it still wasn’t as clear as yours. I think I need to play with the manual settings and set a very quick exposure.


    • Leslie / Feb 2 2013 3:01 pm

      I try to use the fastest shutter speed the lighting will allow. I like the shutter priority setting for birds. And sometimes you just have to get lucky. The bird probably pause for a second or two to pick up that seed just when I shot the photo, giving me a better chance at a sharp picture. I take lots of blurry ones too!


  8. Vicki / Feb 2 2013 1:53 pm

    Love the second one! Great shot!
    Here’s My SS


  9. lmkazmierczak / Feb 2 2013 2:20 pm

    Love the word Junco♫ And that it represents such a cutie is a plus….happy week-end♥


  10. Fran@ Broken Cookies Don't Count / Feb 2 2013 2:41 pm

    The first photo looks like he’s posing…looking over his shoulder at you! Love the ones where you can see the bird’s wings! Have a great weekend!


  11. Ginny / Feb 2 2013 4:59 pm

    Great photos. What I find interesting is that all your birds are completely new to me, and not birds we get in the UK, so I have no idea if they are common birds or very rare.


  12. Jess - A Book Hoarder / Feb 2 2013 5:40 pm

    Wow! That is a great shot of the wings. The tail feathers are so pretty.


  13. Suko / Feb 2 2013 7:45 pm

    Really lovely Junco pics! The black, white, and grey compositions are very striking!


  14. Arti / Feb 3 2013 12:01 am

    Beautiful photos of the Junco. I haven’t seen one here in Southern Alberta, but then I’m a beginning birdwatcher. Maybe next Sat. I’ll post some of the photos I’ve taken in the past two weeks, some birds at -22C. But today, I’ve something different. 😉


  15. Mary / Feb 3 2013 5:50 am

    The first one looks like he’s smiling at you 🙂


  16. Paulita / Feb 3 2013 5:53 am

    This guy looks to have so much personality. Nice pic. Here’s Mine


  17. Darlene / Feb 3 2013 10:58 am

    I haven’t seen any of these birds here in Alberta but they are beautiful. That second picture is amazing.


  18. Beth Hoffman / Feb 3 2013 5:47 pm

    Great photos. I love Juncos too!


  19. Diane@BibliophilebytheSea / Feb 3 2013 8:33 pm

    Very cute and ones I around here at the feeder as well.


  20. joyweesemoll / Feb 3 2013 10:30 pm

    Beautiful. Juncoes are such pretty little birds.


  21. Elizabeth / Feb 4 2013 8:26 pm



    Silver’s Reviews
    My Saturday Snapshot


  22. Ellen Thompson / Feb 5 2013 1:30 pm

    Those are great pictures! That’s interesting information about a bird I had never even heard of before.


  23. Louise / Feb 5 2013 2:09 pm

    What a cute little fellow, I can see why you’d like to see them around despite the cold.


  24. Carmen / Feb 6 2013 12:14 pm

    I really enjoyed the pictures and observations. When I wake up to birdsong, it gives a nice happy feeling. I have a bird feeder outside my bedroom window and love to watch the birds drop by for breakfast.


  25. A.M.B. / Feb 7 2013 9:00 am

    Dark-eyed juncos are my favorite winter birds! Their coloring reminds me of roasted marshmallows, another winter treat. It’s especially nice to see a large group of these cheerful birds in my snowy lawn (not much snow this year, though!).



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