Bird Identification – Junco – Slate-coloured Snow-bird

When the skies are leaden and the first flurries of snow warn us that winter is near, flocks of juncos, that reflect the leaden skies on their backs, and the grayish-white snow on their breasts, come from the North to spend the winter. A few enter New England as early as September, but by Thanksgiving increased numbers are foraging for their dinner among the roadside thickets, in the furrows of ploughed fields, on the ground near evergreens, about the barn-yard and even at the dog’s plate beyond the kitchen door.

Notice how abruptly the slate gray colour of the junco’s mantle ends in a straight line across his light breast, and how, when he flies away, the white feathers on either side of his tail serve as signals to his friends to follow. Such signals are especially useful when birds are migrating; without them, many stragglers from the flocks might get lost. Juncos, who are extremely sociable birds, except when nesting, need help in keeping together. A crisp, frosty ‘tsip call note signifies alarm and away flies the flock. They are quiet, unassuming visitors, modest in manner and in dress; but how we should miss them from the winter landscape!