Dark-Eyed Junco

junco_cropped

Junco hyemalis[i]

Yup. They are back. Harbingers of doom, pain, and just plain old nastiness. Juncos, AKA snowbirds. Sure they may be among the cutest birds on the planet, but still, I dread their arrival. It means shitty winter is on its way. Fuck.

Actually, they do live in much of New England year round, but mostly in the northern and western parts of the region.[ii] They don’t breed where I live, which is near Worcester, but they do breed in most areas north and west of the city, while to the east and south of Worcester, they are very rarely seen in the warmer months.[iii] For some reason they actually seem to like the cold. Not sure why. Maybe they are on drugs or something, or perhaps they are into pain. I think it’s the drugs. Can’t think of any other reason. Not like one of those more sensible birds that have not melted their brains on drugs and, you know, leave during the colder months, like a tanager or something.

Again, juncos are migratory, they winter in southern New England and nest further north. But what is interesting is that most of the juncos you see in New England during the winter are males. The majority of females winter further south.[iv] Males winter further north are closer to nesting grounds and can establish territories more easily.[v] Males compete for territory, where females do not. And older males are more likely to retain territories than younger males, who have to establish new territories. So the younger males stay even further north than the old birds, because the old ones will just kick out the young punks moving in on their turf.[vi] Also, those male juncos are sexist fucks. They dominate over females and make them eat last, so the females are all like fuck this, we’ll just go further south and deal with better weather and more food and the nesting grounds are already waiting for us, no need to fight over them.[vii] See, the ladies are smarter, but we already knew that. And maybe it is all the drugs those males are doing, melting their brains or maybe they are just thinking with their dicks – or maybe both. I think it’s both. But then again maybe they need those drugs to help them get over spending all winter outdoors in New England. Who could blame them! Now I am sure some of you are thinking about me, and why I’m up here all winter long, and whether or not I melted my brain. I remind you, there is a thing called “indoors” so I don’t have to deal with all that crappy weather anywhere near as much as the juncos.

Juncos are a kind of sparrow.[viii] And they come in a large number of varieties, but of those varieties, the only ones found here is the “Slate Colored” variety.[ix] The males are mostly gray, with a white belly, and a pinkish bill.[x]  Females tend to be more brownish, but also have a white belly.[xi]  They also have bright white streaks on their tails.[xii] And, as the other varieties are not found around here, I will not get into them.

Juncos prefer to feed on seeds,[xiii] though they have been known to eat insects during nesting season.[xiv] They prefer feeding on the ground,[xv] and they are often chatty while feeding. I have no idea what they are saying, but they say it in a lot of high pitched “chip” calls.[xvi] I’m guessing junco conversations probably revolve around sexist comments and their favorite mind-altering substances.

In the winter they like open areas,[xvii] but in the spring and summer, juncos like to breed in coniferous forests, and they seem to like higher elevations as well.[xviii] And they like to build their nests on the ground, and almost anywhere on the ground that has some sort of shelter, though they have been known to build their nests in trees as well, they aren’t too fussy about nest sites.[xix] They also use everything available to build their nests.[xx] And it is just the females that build the nests,[xxi] because the males are lazy as fuck, and as I mentioned earlier -sexist.

Juncos are apparently one of the most numerous birds on the continent, numbering about 630 million.[xxii] Not sure how they came up with this number, though I can clearly see that they are quite numerous as they are very abundant damned near everywhere in the colder months.

So there you have it, sexist, lazy and probably suffering from melted brains, the Donald Trump of the bird world, and don’t forget it.

[i] Crossley, Richard “The Crossley Guide” Princeton University Press Princeton NJ, 2011. Pg 450

[ii] Crossley, Richard “The Crossley Guide” Princeton University Press Princeton NJ, 2011. Pg 450

[iii] Author Unknown “Breeding Atlas 2 Species Accounts  Dark-Eyed Junco” Mass Audubon http://www.massaudubon.org/our-conservation-work/wildlife-research-conservation/statewide-bird-monitoring/breeding-bird-atlases/bba2/find-a-bird/(id)/5812 2016

[iv]  Elphick, Chris; Dunning Jr. John; and Sibley, David Allen. Editors.  “The Sibley Guide to Bird Behavior” Albert A. Knopf Inc., New York. 2001. Pg 532

[v] Elphick, Chris; Dunning Jr. John; and Sibley, David Allen. Editors.  “The Sibley Guide to Bird Behavior” Albert A. Knopf Inc., New York. 2001. Pg 532

[vi] Elphick, Chris; Dunning Jr. John; and Sibley, David Allen. Editors.  “The Sibley Guide to Bird Behavior” Albert A. Knopf Inc., New York. 2001. Pg 532

[vii] Elphick, Chris; Dunning Jr. John; and Sibley, David Allen. Editors.  “The Sibley Guide to Bird Behavior” Albert A. Knopf Inc., New York. 2001. Pg 532

[viii] Author Unknown “Dark-Eyed Junco” Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark-eyed_junco 28OCT2016

[ix] Author Unknown “Dark-Eyed Junco” Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark-eyed_junco 28OCT2016

[x] Author Unknown “Dark-Eyed Junco” Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark-eyed_junco 28OCT2016

[xi] Author Unknown “Dark Eyed Junco” Mass Audubon http://www.massaudubon.org/learn/nature-wildlife/birds/dark-eyed-juncos 2016

[xii] Author Unknown “Dark Eyed Junco” Mass Audubon http://www.massaudubon.org/learn/nature-wildlife/birds/dark-eyed-juncos 2016

[xiii] Author Unknown “Dark-Eyed Junco/Life History” Cornell Lab of Ornithology https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Dark-eyed_Junco/lifehistory 2015

[xiv] Author Unknown “Dark-Eyed Junco/Life History” Cornell Lab of Ornithology https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Dark-eyed_Junco/lifehistory 2015

[xv] Author Unknown “Dark Eyed Junco” Mass Audubon http://www.massaudubon.org/learn/nature-wildlife/birds/dark-eyed-juncos 2016

[xvi] Author Unknown “Dark-Eyed Junco/Identification” Cornell Lab of Ornithology https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Dark-eyed_Junco/id 2015

[xvii] Author Unknown “Dark-Eyed Junco/Identification” Cornell Lab of Ornithology https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Dark-eyed_Junco/id 2015

[xviii] Author Unknown “Breeding Atlas 2 Species Accounts  Dark-Eyed Junco” Mass Audubon http://www.massaudubon.org/our-conservation-work/wildlife-research-conservation/statewide-bird-monitoring/breeding-bird-atlases/bba2/find-a-bird/(id)/5812 2016

[xix] Author Unknown “Dark-Eyed Junco/Life History” Cornell Lab of Ornithology https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Dark-eyed_Junco/lifehistory 2015

[xx] Author Unknown “Dark-Eyed Junco/Life History” Cornell Lab of Ornithology https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Dark-eyed_Junco/lifehistory 2015

[xxi] Author Unknown “Dark-Eyed Junco/Life History” Cornell Lab of Ornithology https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Dark-eyed_Junco/lifehistory 2015

[xxii] Author Unknown “Dark-Eyed Junco/Life History” Cornell Lab of Ornithology https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Dark-eyed_Junco/lifehistory 2015

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