Jim Williams has been watching birds and writing about their antics since before "Gilligan's Island" went into reruns. Join him for his unique insights, his everyday adventures and an open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond.

Change of pace: Let's talk junco!

Posted by: Jim Williams under Bird biology Updated: February 12, 2014 - 11:24 PM

The Dark-eyed Junco is probably the most common feeder bird in North America. In fact, recent FeederWatch data from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology indicate that among 15 feeder-regions monitored in U.S. and Canada, the Dark-eyed Junco is the first, second, or third most-common bird in nine of those regions, occurring in from 77% to 97% of the feeders.
 
Different forms of Dark-eyed Juncos are to wintering right now here and at lower elevations in the West and across multiple wide swaths of the East. 
 
The presence of this bird in our backyards, woodlands, and edges comes at the same time as the general distribution of a fine video, called the Ordinary Extraordinary Junco. This is the project of a team of biologists at Indiana University led by Drs. Ellen Ketterson and Jonathan Atwell, and film student Steve Burns, and it is accessible free at http://juncoproject.org 

The video highlights how biologists study birds in the wild and in controlled environments, using a highly variable bird that even the most casual backyard bird watcher can identify. The video was funded by the National Science Foundation and Indiana University.
 
Eight sections can be viewed separately or appreciated as a single feature-length piece, whether one wishes to study diversification, natural selection, breeding biology, or much more. The different forms are examined, among the Dark-eyed and Yellow-eyed taxa.
 
The eight sections of the video can be short (3 minutes) or long( 20 minutes). They are broken down as follows:
1     Introduction
2     Chapter 1, the pioneers in junco science
3     Chapter 2, Appalachian Sprint: studies in Virginia 
4     Chapter 3, diversification in Dark-eyed Junco
5     Chapter 4, diversification south of the border
6     Chapter 5, the mysterious juncos of Guadalupe Island
7     Chapter 6, campus juncos in San Diego
8     What we can learn from the junco The website includes related materials for teachers.
 
Juncos are so much more than "snowbirds," so much more than most observers ever considered.

(From Great Birding Projects, email newsletter, October 2013, Paul Baicich editor. Electronic subscriptions for this monthly publication are available by contacting the editor at paul.baicich@verizon.net)

Photo is of a Slate-colored Junco seen in Minnesota.

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