The Dark-Eyed Junco
Junco hyemalis — There is hardly a bird I love more.


“Juncos usually winter in the same area year after year. At feeders, which they frequent, the birdwatcher can observe a definite hierarchy. Juncos of greater stature will chase off less important juncos, effectively establishing the pecking order. Males are usually at the top of the order, followed first by females, then by immature birds.

“The name junco comes from the Latin word for ‘rush,’ a plant found in marshy areas, even though this species prefers open pine woodlands. The name hyemalis is Latin for “wintry.” It was often thought that juncos are called “snowbirds” because their arrival foretells the coming of winter to their southern range. Another possible source for the nickname snowbird may be the white belly of the slate-colored junco, which has been described as ‘leaden skies above, snow below.'” — Laura C. Martin, The Folklore of Birds

When we see them in our garden, we know for sure that snow is coming.