Birds – Junco

(Junco hyemalis) Finch family

Called also: SNOWBIRD ; SLATE-COLORED SNOWBIRD

Length—5.5 to 6.5 inches. About the size of the English sparrow.

Male—Upper parts slate-colored ; darkest on head and neck, which are sometimes almost black and marked like a cowl. Gray on breast, like a vest. Underneath white. Several outer tail feathers white, conspicuous in flight.

Female-Lighter gray, inclining to brown.

Range—North America. Not common in warm latitudes. Breeds in the Catskills and northern New England. Migrations—September. April. Winter resident.

” Leaden skies above; snow below,” is Mr. Parkhurst’s suggestive description of this rather timid little neighbor, that is only starved into familiarity. When the snow has buried seed and berries, a flock of juncos, mingling sociably with the sparrows and chickadees about the kitchen door, will pick up scraps of food with an intimacy quite touching in a bird naturally rather shy. Here we can readily distinguish these “little gray-robed monks and nuns,” as Miss Florence Merriam calls them.

They are trim, sprightly, sleek, and even natty; their dispositions are genial and vivacious, not quarrelsome, like their sparrow cousins, and what is perhaps best about them, they are birds we may surely depend upon seeing in the winter months. A few come forth in September, migrating at night from the deep woods of the north, where they have nested and moulted during the summer ; but not until frost has sharpened the air are large numbers of them seen. Rejoicing in winter, they nevertheless do not revel in the deep and fierce arctic blasts, as the snowflakes do, but take good care to avoid the open pastures before the hard storms overtake them.

Early in the spring their song is sometimes heard before they leave us to woo and to nest in the north. Mr. Bicknell describes it as “a crisp call-note, a simple trill, and a faint, whispered warble, usually much broken, but not without sweetness.”