|Our Feathered Friends|
|Wednesday, November 3, 2010|
By RAY POPE
My little Snow Birds have returned from up north and I am in hopes that they will like my offering of bird seed. Usually I do not see them here except when there is snow on the ground. It’s a new season and I have already purchased enough sunflower and mixed seed to get me through till Christmas. I couldn’t wait to e-mail Karen Franklin to brag, I mean tell her, of my discovery in the back yard. Later as time passed into hours, no return e-mail came from Karen.
Sunday morning finally got here, and there was a return e-mail with Karen telling me that she has White-throated Sparrows at her feeders and that White-throats would trump my Juncos. I’ll just have to wait till I can talk to her in person to explain that Sparrows don’t actually count more than Juncos. Both species of bird are what I call ground feeders and sometimes scratch like chickens below the feeders for seeds that other birds knock out to the ground.
Dark-eyed Juncos (Junco hyemalis) is the best known species of the Juncos, a genus of small grayish American Sparrows. These birds are common across much of temperate North America and range far into the arctic.
The adults have a gray head, neck and breast with a white belly. One of their most distinct features is their white outer tail feathers which seem to flash while in flight. This helps to identify them when you might only catch a glimpse of the bird. The bill is pinkish on both male and female birds. They are from 5 inches to 6 1/2 inches in length with vocals that sound similar to a Chipping Sparrow.
Breeding habitat is coniferous or mixed forest areas throughout North America where the female builds the nest in the lower branches of a tree or shrub. She lays a clutch of four eggs which are slightly glossy grayish or pale bluish-white with spots or splotched markings. The eggs are incubated by the female for 12 to 13 days and the young leave the nest between 11 and 14 days after hatching.
It is only from late October till early spring that we here in Tennessee get to enjoy having these Juncos or Snowbirds around. I have talked about shushing, which is a noise I make that sounds like a Wren Scolding, when I want to call up birds. I was out to my late uncle Albert Balding’s farm several years ago when I started making my shushing sound and was amazed to see about fifty Juncos fly up from the tall grass to see what was going on.
Dark-eyed Junco now includes other races, which include our Slate-colored Juncos, White-winged Juncos, Gray-headed and Oregon Juncos. I always look forward to their return here for the winter and toss out seed on the ground to keep them happy.
I hope everyone enjoyed Halloween this past Sunday with spooks all over the place. We had maybe 40 trick-or-treaters on our street where my neighbor and myself handed out the good stuff.