Creature Feature

Creature Feature – “Snowbird”

Posted by  //  December 4, 2022  //  Articles, Creature Feature

The dark-eyed junco, or “snowbird” is a wee sprite, measuring just five inches long, including its tail.  Like winter’s palette, its somber plumage is the color of storm clouds above, and snow below.  Each fall, the junco arrives to our backyards from its far-north breeding grounds.  While hard to imagine, this bird – along with the snow bunting, horned lark, tree sparrow and snowy owl – finds our region a hospitable place to spend the winter.

Truly, the junco seems intertwined with winter, perhaps even defining its onset, at least in a whimsical way.  Old folklore claims that within six weeks of the little bird’s first arrival, measurable snow will fall.  Furthermore, some naturalists observe that the junco is more likely to patronize feeders on snowy days, while other folks quip that “JUNCO” is simply an acronym for “Just Until Nicer Conditions Occur.”  I think American poet, Frank Sweet, captured the junco’s wintry essence best in his enchanting prose: 

“Which came first, the birds or the snow?  Or was it together they fluttered down?  

The spirits in white, who seem to know. And talk with the spirits in drab and brown? 

And which are the merriest ones at play? The flakes which dance to the tune of the breeze, 

or the birds which flutter and fly away, and chatter and call from the nodding trees?”

Article & photo by Margie Manthey

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