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January 14, 2019

Still no snow in my region.

Thing is, snow is a great insulator, and helps to protect perennials from freezing off completely.

I will expect the demise of some of my plants (it has happened a lot the past several winters).

Still, the least snowy winters records in Grand Rapids, MI were way back in 1905-1907.

Far less then we've been experiencing recently.

Weather is cyclical.

After all, it's not all about global warming.

Climate change?

Sure, history is full of climate changes.

No snow still means fewer birds for me.

Yolanda lost 5# last month, that means we are doing something right.

Our goal is for her to lose another 20#.

You will see more fur kid pictures (no birds or snow to photograph).

Karen bought a monster toy for the dogs.

It crunches and crinkles from heat to tail.

Snickers did get a haircut this past week.

This week's topic,

Dark-eyed juncos.


(Dark-eyed junco in my backyard.)

The Dark-eyed Junco, are one of the most common and familiar birds of North America.

From Northern Alaska, to Northern Mexico.

From the Pacific, to the maritime provinces of Canada.

The Junco's ubiquity, abundance,
tameness, and conspicuous ground-foraging winter flocks, which are often found in suburbs (especially at feeders).

At edges of parks and similar landscaped areas, around farms, and along rural roadsides and stream edges.

I grew up hearing my parents call Junco's 'Snowbirds', some people still refer to it as 'snowbird'.

Its plumage is characterized by white outer tail feathers that flash when the bird takes flight and by a gray or blackish “hood” (head, nape, throat) and dark back that contrast with its whitish breast and belly.

A recent estimate set the junco's total population at approximately 630- 650 million.

(Oregon junco.)

The Dark-eyed Junco:

Commonly called snowbird, because of its sudden appearance around winter bird feeding stations and winter gardens.

Until the 1970's, the currently recognized Dark-eyed Junco was split into 5 distinct species, 3 of them comprising 2 or more subspecies.

Now they are all considered one species of bird.

(Miss Penny perched on Karen's earring box.)


A member of the sparrow family, the Dark-eyed is 5 to 6 inches long. The bill is pinkish and the eyes are dark.

This bird varies geographically.

The eastern 'Slate-colored' race is uniform dark gray or brownish gray depending on whether
it is male or female.

The western 'Oregon' race has black (male) or gray (female) hood and brown back.

The western 'Pink-sided' race has a gray head and pinkish sides.

The 'Gray-headed' race of the southern Rockies and Southwest is light gray with a reddish-brown back.

The 'White-winged' race of north-central states has white on the tail and usually white wing bars.

(Yes they are spoiled.)

Mating Habits:

These birds are generally monogamous (one male to one female) defending their territory during the nesting and breeding season.

Although these birds vary in appearance, they will breed freely with one another.

Research also shows that over active males will spend time breeding with several females and ignoring all parenting duties.

(A leucistic, or partial albino junco that has blessed us with its presence since November.)


Juncos spend the summer in their breeding grounds of Canada, extreme northern United States, the mountains of the western States and New England regions.

The female builds and places its nest on the ground near tall vegetation.

The nest is cup shaped and built using grasses, moss, and twigs. The inside is lined with rootlets.

The female lays 3 to 6 gray or pale bluish eggs with dark blotches.

Incubation generally begins the night before the last egg is laid.

The female incubates the eggs for 12 to 13 days and the young leave the nest about 9 to 13 days after hatching.

1 - 2 broods each season.

Predation can be high in some locations.

(Sophie, being Sophie.)


Juncos feed mostly on the ground, eating weed and grass seeds.

Sometimes you may watch a bird ride a weed head to the ground and then feed.

In summer these bird feed mainly on insects (High in protein to feed growing babies).

Attracting these birds to your feeders is as easy as scattering some cracked corn, sunflower seed, or some millet on a Tray Feeder.

A tray feeder keeps the seed off the ground.

Limited amounts of scratch food tossed on the ground in your gardens is very entertaining.

Especially where there is snow as these little birds hop back and forth scratching for food.

Flocks return to the same areas each winter.

They have a fixed membership and a strict hierarchy.

Aggression at feeding stations is expression of dominance.

(Best Buds.)

Of Interest:

These birds display an interesting wintering habit. Males will winter farther North than females. Younger males will winter farther north than older males.

It's believed Dark-eyed Juncos do this in order to get back to the breeding ground to claim territory.

Since females do not claim territory, they can winter farther south.

Dark-eyed Juncos breed in forests across much of North America and at elevations ranging from sea level to more than 11,000 feet. They are often found in coniferous forests including pine, Douglas-fir, spruce, and fir, but also in deciduous forests such as aspen, cottonwood, oak, maple, and hickory.

During winter and on migration they use a wider variety of habitats including open woodlands, fields, roadsides, parks, and gardens.

They are resident birds in Michigan's upper peninsula, yet migrate or become snowbirds in lower Michigan in November, where I live.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

God Bless.

“Tears are often the telescope by which men see far into heaven.”

Henry Ward Beecher (1813 - 1887)

Our tears are seen and heard in heaven.

Please pay attention to the verses below.

“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man, and He will live with them.
They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

Revelation 21:3,4

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors,

We borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb.

A Blessed week to you .

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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