aba events
Nikon Monarch 7

    Oh Junco, What Art Thou?

    In the latter parts of December I began noticing a Dark-eyed Junco working my back yard feeders that had tidy  white wing bars and all gray upperparts.  Combined with my location in Colorado the signs seemed to point to a White-winged Junco, well within expected winter range for that subspecies and indeed far from the first of its kind in my yard.  But after a few days of glimpsing the bird I finally studied it more carefully and began doubting my initial assumption.  One thing that gave me fits about the bird was its seemingly magical ability to show and then lose its wing bars, only to again get them back upon further scrutiny.  Was I jumping between different birds without realizing it, were my eye floaters really acting up, or was I just losing my mind?  Also, the bird seemed a bit too dark and lacked the contrastingly darker lores that I ‘m accustomed to seeing in White-winged Junco.  So when the opportunity presented itself I set up a photo blind near my brush pile and rigged up my scope for some digiscoping to see in close detail what was going on.

    DEJU_wing-bars1

    Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored ssp.), variant with white wing bars, Longmont, CO December 2013. Photo © Bill Schmoker

    DEJU_wing-bars2

    Note the greatly dimished appearance of the wing bars on the bird’s right side. Longmont, CO December 2013. Photo © Bill Schmoker

    As it turned out, the bird’s left side had two crisp white wing bars (the upper bar distinctly shorter but there) while the right side only had a couple of weak white tips to the greater coverts.  I now suspected that the bird was a Slate-colored Junco with wing bars, a variant illustrated and described by David Sibley in his eponymous Guide to Birds (have you pre-ordered your 2nd edition yet?)  To confirm my hunch I emailed some of my  friends who scrutinize juncos even harder than I do (Ted Floyd, Tony Leukering, and Steve Mlodinow) who all agreed with my assessment.  Anyway, I really like birds like this with a unique trait that makes them stand out from the crowd, and even better when they cooperate for photos!  I’ll leave you with a bit of video of the bird, again showing the differences on its left & right sides:

     

    The following two tabs change content below.
    Bill Schmoker

    Bill Schmoker

    Bill is known in the birding community as a leading digital photographer of birds. Since 2001 he has built a collection of digital bird photos documenting over 640 species of North American birds. His photography has appeared in international nature publications, books, newspapers, interpretive signs, web pages, advertisements, corporate logos, and as references for art works. Also a published writer, Bill wrote a chapter for Good Birders Don't Wear White, is a past Colorado/Wyoming regional editor for North American Birds and is proud to be on the Leica Birding Team. Bill is a Colorado eBird reviewer and is especially fond of his involvement with the ABA's Institute for Field Ornithology and Young Birder Programs. Bill is a popular birding guide, speaker, and workshop instructor, and teaches middle school science in Boulder, Colorado. When he isn’t birding he enjoys family time with his wife and son.
    Bill Schmoker

    Latest posts by Bill Schmoker (see all)

    • Melissa Bishop

      I saw a bird just like this in my back yard for the first time this year. This is the 2nd photo I’ve seen of it on the net. Just lovely.

    • Mike Fialkovich

      I had a bird just like this at my feeder here in the Pittsburgh area a few years ago. The bar was more noticeable on one wing.

    Birders know well that the healthiest, most dynamic choruses contain many different voices. The birding community encompasses a wide variety of interests, talents, and convictions. All are welcome.
    If you like birding, we want to hear from you.
    Read More »

    Recent Comments

    • Al Wanamaker, in ABA Adds Nutmeg Mannikin, #981... { saw a group of them this morning at the Batiquitos Lagoon in Carlsbad CA. 7:00AM }
    • Quentin Brown, in The Unlikeliest Twitch... { Hilarious! Totally brightened up an otherwise too wet to go birding morning here in Vancouver. }
    • Rick Wright, in Change and Continuity, Take 2... { Worse and better. It's worse because of things like social media and bird apps. Better because some of the great birds like plain-capped starthroats and... }
    • Carl Bendorf, in The Unlikeliest Twitch... { We've progressed/regressed from Jack Handy's Deep Thoughts to Greg Nieses's Deep Veins! Great story about the fun and excitement in birding. You can take this... }
    • Tracy Mecham Huntsman, in Rare Bird Alert: May 30, 2014... { I just moved to SE Idaho, just outside Idaho Falls, and was interested to find out what types of birds I have been seeing along... }
    • Older »

    Categories

    Authors

    Archives

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    • Open Mic: My First Breeding Bird Survey August 12, 2014 8:22
      When I got asked to go on my first Breeding Bird Survey with one of our areas top birders, I jumped at the opportunity! I met Katie Koch, a US Fish and Wildlife Service bird biologist at 4:45am. That was the earliest time I've been birding by 15 minutes. […]
    • What to Do When You Feel Under the Weather at Bird Camp August 6, 2014 6:47
      Imagine you are at a bird camp. Camp Chiricahua, for instance. Maybe this year. Maybe even this week. You are having lots of fun making new friends, seeing lots of cool birds, and traveling to all sorts of awesome places. But with all this activity and excitement, you start wearing yourself down. […]
    • Young Birder Blog Birding #31 August 1, 2014 5:45
      July is often a difficult month for birders, but the month has come to an end. For many birds, breeding season is long gone and preparation for fall migration have begun. […]

    Follow ABA on Twitter

    Nature Blog Network