Juncos provide free entertainment

Juncos provide free entertainment By Bob Karolevitz
Writer At Large If the Buddhist philosophy of reincarnation is right, then I think I should come back as a jaunty dark-eyed Junco. The hardy little bird — slightly  smaller than an English sparrow — is a year-round resident of our part of South Dakota. There are all kinds of Juncos if you want to get picky.  Among other species I discovered there were Oregon Juncos, Pink-sided Juncos, Red-backed Juncos, White-winged Juncos and on and on.  But I like the ones that are black on top and are white – or nearly so – on their bellies. Depending on age or sub-species, their beaks are yellowed or slightly rose colored but they don't sit still long enough for me to get a good look at them. I don't care what color their eyes are.  That's for the professional bird-watchers to figure out!  (The sub-species don't interest me – unless I see a Mexican Junco in my flock.)  I just lump them all together. You see one Junco, and you've seen them all.  I don't think they migrate because I chase up small flocks of them from the roadway when I drive there at night.  I don't know what they do in the daytime –  especially the males. The female makes the cuplike nest of grasses, small twigs and other fine plant materials.  The nest might be on the ground or a tuft of plants or against a tree or shrub.  She incubates three to five white eggs with brownish blotches for up to 13 days.  Young are tended by both male and female parents – and leave the nest just under two weeks – then out they go to eat seeds of grasses and weeds, and a new  generation of Juncos is born – unless stepped upon in their well hidden nests. Unlike the robin, which heralds springtime, the Juncos tell us winter is nigh. Their name comes from the Spanish word meaning rushes but they are seldom found where rush plants are found. They prefer dry ground where they usually feed.  A Washington neighbor named Auntie May Charboneau always wanted to come  back as a fern but I like Juncos better because ferns don't do anything like the little birds hovering around our bird feeders to give me all sorts of pleasure as a part-time bird-watcher!   © 2009 Robert F. Karolevitz

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