Juncos, sparrows, and swans

  • Blog Post by: Jim Williams
  • October 3, 2012 - 9:25 AM

 Juncos are back in the area. I’ve seen several, including one that found a rude welcome. The small pile of gray and white feathers in our back yard pointed to predation of some kind. White-throated Sparrows are darting in and out of our brush pile. We’ve had as many as five species of sparrow out there in falls past. Building a brush pile in a corner of your yard is a good idea. It not only attracts birds but gives them shelter from weather, cats, and hungry hawks. The pile can be smallish but should not be neat.

Many species of sparrows are being seen in the metro area. Go out and poke around in brushy, long-grassy areas. Walk slowly, be alert. Sparrows dart.

The first Tundra Swans of the season have been seen at Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge near Aberdeen, S.D. From now through late November flocks of those migrants will be moving through Minnesota toward their Chesapeake Bay wintering site. You’re going to hear them before you see them in most instances. Their distant hoo-ing call is one of the most striking of the season. They move both night and day. Hearing them through an open bedroom window is best.

Juncos, by the way, come in variable colors. The birds I’ve been watching, and the bird shown below, are the slate-colored variation of the species, known as Dark-eyed Junco. The Oregon variation, found mostly in the west, has a brown back, an almost black head, and rusty or buffy sides. The gray-headed variation, also tending westward, has pale gray plumage, a rufous patch on its back, with a gray head and dark feathering around the eyes (lores). The white-winged junco, from the Black Hills, is dark gray with obvious white wing bars. Once in a while one of those western birds makes its way here. All juncos display white outer tail feathers, an obvious ID mark.



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