Dark-eyed junco heads back north

Sunday, March 20, 2011

This little bird is a dark-eyed junco. It is a member of a genus of small American sparrows that are commonly referred to as "snow birds."

The plumage of a dark-eyed junco's head, neck and breast can vary from light gray to black. It has a white belly. This bird's beak is light pink with a gray tip.

It's easy to identify a dark-eyed junco by the white flash of its tail as it flies or hops on the ground. It's song is not a song at all, but rather a sharp, high-pitched "tick ... tick" sound.

The dark-eyed junco pictured here is probably a male, identified as such by its dark color. Most likely this one has wintered in parts farther south, Louisiana or Mississippi. It will soon leave Southeast Missouri as well on its way to breeding grounds in Canada or maybe even Alaska.

Through the Woods is a weekly nature photo column by Aaron Horrell. Find this column at semissourian.com to order a reprint of the photo. Find more work by him at the O'Tenem Gallery.

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