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This Week’s Creature Feature: Snow Birds

Dark-eyed juncos make their sudden appearance

     In Florida, “There’s a snowbird,” usually identifies an older person who spends only winters in the south.
     Around here, snow birds are actually little birds, called juncos, that seem to suddenly show up when it snows. 
    North American juncos have six different color variations.  The most common here is the slate-backed dark-eyed junco. The other color patterns appear farther west.
     Dark-eyed juncos spend the summer in the most northern parts of the United States and in Canada. Occasionally they nest in the mountainous areas around Thurmont. In late fall, large numbers migrate to eastern Maryland.
     These very small birds are barely noticeable. Dark grey with a white or very pale belly and a pink bill, they don’t stand out. Their dark long tails have a hidden bright white streak on each side, flashed only when they fly.  
     When juncos are startled, they make a rapid high-pitched clicking sound.
     Without snow, they feed on the ground around the edge of woods and bushes, looking for seeds and insects. With snow, the juncos become hyperactive, hopping around in the open. They suddenly can seem to be everywhere.
     As it snowed this past Sunday, January 13, more than 20 at a time rushed around my backyard.