About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

What Bird is Showing that Flash of White on its Tail?

I'm watching the Rose of Sharon bush in the backyard. The blooms are gone and so are my hummingbirds that used to fight over that bush. But there are some new birds out there bouncing back and forth among the branches. They're flashing distinctive white outer tail feathers.

Wait a minute my brain is slowly making connections...Juncos! Hello juncos, it's been awhile since I last saw you in mid-Michigan. Oh my, it's a nice flock this year.

Did you know that up to 70% of Juncos wintering in the southern U.S. are females? The juncos we see all winter in the Lansing area are typically males. They risk wintering in the northern states in order to be the first ones back in the spring to their breeding territory in the upper Michigan and Canadian.
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) Great Backyar...Image by Stephen Little via Flickr
The Dark-eyed Junco Junco hyemalis is a medium-sized sparrow with dark gray plumage on its head, breast and upper parts which contrast with the white, outer tail and white belly. The female and immature juncos are less slate colored and tend to be browner than the adult male.


They are often called “Snowbirds,” possibly due to the fact that they are more likely to visit feeding stations during snowy periods. Many people also believe their return from their northern breeding grounds foretells the return of cold and snowy weather. Another possible source of the nickname may be the white belly plumage and slate-colored back of the Junco, which has been described as “leaden skies above, snow below.”

Whatever the name you are welcome to join the rest of my hardy crew of birds that decided mid-Michigan was the best place to stay all winter. My feeders are clean and I just filled them with WBU No-Mess. Bon Appétit!
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