Although spring is around the corner, I didn’t want to pass up this opportunity to share a post from my wildlife expert and children’s book author friend Shiela Fuller. Here is her post on the wonderful winter bird the junco.
Nothing marks the onset of winter bird feeding for bird watchers in the northeastern US like the arrival of the dark eyed junco or “snow bird”. In late October or early November, these tiny ground feeding birds flock to their northern homes. There are many variations of juncos found throughout the United States but in the eastern part of the U.S., dark eyed juncos are common. The snow birds have a grey body and a white belly with tips of white on the edge of their tail feathers— visible during flight and sometimes as they’re feeding.
If you took down your bird feeders last summer, it’s time to put them back up. Dark eyed juncos are especially noticeable foraging on the ground under the feeders looking for fallen seeds. After a freshly fallen snow, you may notice that there are more hungry juncos than usual. Sweep some snow away from under the feeder, and perhaps toss a few extra seeds there, just for the ground feeders.
Watch the feeders all winter long and take note to when the juncos leave. Mark it down on a calendar. Do the same with their arrival in autumn. You will be amazed at the precision in timing of arrivals and departures when comparing year to year. Compiling and comparing data is the nurturing of a future birdwatcher, scientist, or bird biologist.
Cornell University’s program, Project Feeder Watch is a great way to learn the birds at your feeder. For a nominal fee they send you all the paperwork and instructions to begin your citizen scientist adventure. https://feederwatch.org/ Winter fun for everyone.
Shiela Fuller is author of All Night Singing published by Schoolwide (2015).