Vol. 2, No. 4 – The Slate-Colored Junco

Slate-colored Red Junco of Birds Illustrated by Color Photography, 1897

Slate-colored Red Junco of Birds Illustrated by Color Photography, 1897

From col. F. M. Woodruff. Copyrighted by
Nature Study Pub. Co., 1897, Chicago.



LACK SNOWBIRD, in most of the United States and in Ontario, where it is a common resident, and White Bill, are names more often applied to this species of Sparrow than the one of Junco, by which it is known to ornithologists. It nests in the mountains of northern Pennsylvania, New York, and New England, and is a resident throughout the year in northeastern Ohio, and in Michigan. In all probability, the Snowbird does not breed, even occasionally, anywhere within the limits of the state of Illinois, though individuals may in very rare instances be found several weeks after others have departed for the north, these having probably received some injury which prevents their migration. Prof. Forbes refers to such an instance, which came under his own observation. He saw on a tree in the edge of a wood, in the southern part of the state, an adult specimen of the Junco, and only one, which, he says, astonished him.

Mr. William L. Kells states that in Ontario this Junco selects a variety of places for nesting sites, such as the upturned roots of trees, crevices in banks, under the sides of logs and stumps, a cavity under broken sod, or in the shelter of grass or other vegetation. The nest is made of dry grasses, warmly and smoothly lined with hair. The bird generally begins to nest the first week of May, and nests with eggs are found as late as August. A nest of the Junco was found on the rafters of a barn in Connecticut.

Almost any time after the first of October, little excursion parties of Juncos may be looked for, and the custom continues all winter long. When you become acquainted with him, as you surely will, during his visit, you will like him more and more for his cheerful habits. He will come to your back door, and present his little food petition, very merrily indeed. He is very friendly with the Chick-a-dee, and they are often seen together about in the barn-yards, and he even ventures within the barn when seeds are frozen to the ground.

“The Doctor,” in Citizen Bird, tells this pretty story of his winter pets:

“My flock of Juncos were determined to brave all weathers. First they ate the seeds of all the weeds and tall grasses that reached above the snow, then they cleaned the honeysuckles of their watery black berries. When these were nearly gone, I began to feed them every day with crumbs, and they soon grew very tame. At Christmas an ice storm came, and after that the cold was bitter indeed. For two days I did not see my birds; but on the third day, in the afternoon, when I was feeding the hens in the barn-yard, a party of feeble, half-starved Juncos, hardly able to fly, settled down around me and began to pick at the chicken food. I knew at a glance that after a few hours more exposure all the poor little birds would be dead. So I shut up the hens and opened the door of the straw-barn very wide, scattered a quantity of meal and cracked corn in a line on the floor, and crept behind the door to watch. First one bird hopped in and tasted the food; he found it very good and evidently called his brothers, for in a minute they all went in and I closed the door upon them. And I slept better that night, because I knew that my birds were comfortable. The next afternoon they came back again. I kept them at night in this way for several weeks, and one afternoon several Snowflakes came in with them.” (See Snowflakes.)

Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) (Junco hyemalis hyemalis) female WikiC

Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) (Junco hyemalis hyemalis) female WikiC


JUNCOJunco hyemalis. Other name: “Snowbird.”

Range—North America; breeds from northern Minnesota to northern New York and southward along the summits of the Alleghenies to Virginia; winters southward to the Gulf States.

Nest—Of grasses, moss, and rootlets, lined with fine grasses and long hairs, on or near the ground.

Eggs—Four or five, white or bluish white, finely or evenly speckled or spotted, sometimes heavily blotched at the larger end with rufous-brown.

Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) by Ian

Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon) (Junco hyemalis) by Ian

Lee’s Addition:

And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen. (John 21:25 KJV)

Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis dorsalis) WikiC

Dark-eyed Junco (Grey-headed) (Junco hyemalis dorsalis) WikiC

What a neat story about helping the Juncos out of the cold. The Junco the writer is referring to a subspecies  the Dark-eyed Junco. The Slate-colored Junco has 3 subspecies of the Dark-eyed, the hyemalis, carolinensis, and the cismontanus. The photo at top is more of the Dark-eyed dominate species. There are over 15 subspecies of Dark-eyed Juncos.

The Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) is the best-known species of the juncos, a genus of small grayish American sparrows. This bird is common across much of temperate North America and in summer ranges far into the Arctic. With shorter wings, they are more prone to stay during the winters and not migrate. If so, it would only be short distances. They are members of the Emberizidae – Buntings, New World Sparrows & Allies Family

Adults generally have gray heads, necks, and breasts, gray or brown backs and wings, and a white belly, but show a confusing amount of variation in plumage details. The white outer tail feathers flash distinctively in flight and while hopping on the ground. The bill is usually pale pinkish.

Males tend to have darker, more conspicuous markings than the females. The Dark-eyed Junco is 5.1 to 6.9 in (13 to 17.5 cm) long and has a wingspan of 7.1 to 9.8 in (18 to 25 cm). Juveniles often have pale streaks and may even be mistaken for Vesper Sparrows (Pooecetes gramineus) until they acquire adult plumage at 2 to 3 months. But junco fledglings’ heads are generally quite uniform in color already, and initially their bills still have conspicuous yellowish edges to the gape, remains of the fleshy wattles that guide the parents when they feed the nestlings.

The song is a trill similar to the Chipping Sparrow’s (Spizella passerina), except that the Red-backed Junco’s song is more complex, similar to that of the Yellow-eyed Junco (Junco phaeonotus). The call also resembles that of the Black-throated blue warblers, which is a member of the New World Warbler family. Calls include tick sounds and very high-pitched tinkling chips.

All sounds provided by xeno-canto.org.

Junco hyemalis hyemalis – Call

Junco hyemalis hyemalis – Song

Dark-eyed Junco Junco (hyemalis carolinensis) ©Flickr Don Faulkner

Dark-eyed Junco Junco (hyemalis carolinensis) ©Flickr Don Faulkner

Dark-eyed Junco Junco (hyemalis carolinensis) by Don Faulkner

Junco hyemalis carolinensis – Call

Junco hyemalis carolinensis – Song


Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited

The above article is an article in the monthly serial for October 1897 “designed to promote Knowledge of Bird-Live.” These include Color Photography, as they call them, today they are drawings. There are at least three Volumes that have been digitized by Project Gutenberg.

To see the whole series of – Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited


(Information from Wikipedia and other internet sources)

Next Article – The Kingbird

The Previous Article – The Snowflake


Wordless Birds



Vol. 2, No. 3 – The Song Sparrow

From col. F. M. Woodruff. Copyrighted by Nature Study Pub. Co., 1897, Chicago.

The Song Sparrow for Birds Illustrated by Color Photography, 1897


Glimmers gay the leafless thicket
Close beside my garden gate,
Where, so light, from post to wicket,
Hops the Sparrow, blithe, sedate;
Who, with meekly folded wing,
Comes to sun himself and sing.

It was there, perhaps, last year,
That his little house he built;
For he seemed to perk and peer
And to twitter, too, and tilt
The bare branches in between,
With a fond, familiar mien.
—George Parsons Lathrop.


E do not think it at all amiss to say that this darling among song birds can be heard singing nearly everywhere the whole year round, although he is supposed to come in March and leave us in November. We have heard him in February, when his little feet made tracks in the newly fallen snow, singing as cheerily as in April, May, and June, when he is supposed to be in ecstasy. Even in August, when the heat of the dog-days and his moulting time drive him to leafy seclusion, his liquid notes may be listened for with certainty, while “all through October they sound clearly above the rustling leaves, and some morning he comes to the dogwood by the arbor and announces the first frost in a song that is more direct than that in which he told of spring. While the chestnuts fall from their velvet nests, he is singing in the hedge; but when the brush heaps burn away to fragrant smoke in November, they veil his song a little, but it still continues.”

While the Song Sparrow nests in the extreme northern part of Illinois, it is known in the more southern portions only as a winter resident. This is somewhat remarkable, it is thought, since along the Atlantic coast it is one of the most abundant summer residents throughout Maryland and Virginia, in the same latitudes as southern Illinois, where it is a winter sojourner, abundant, but very retiring, inhabiting almost solely the bushy swamps in the bottom lands, and unknown as a song bird. This is regarded as a remarkable instance of variation in habits with locality, since in the Atlantic states it breeds abundantly, and is besides one of the most familiar of the native birds.

The location of the Song Sparrow’s nest is variable; sometimes on the ground, or in a low bush, but usually in as secluded a place as its instinct of preservation enables it to find. A favorite spot is a deep shaded ravine through which a rivulet ripples, where the solitude is disturbed only by the notes of his song, made more sweet and clear by the prevailing silence.

Song Sparrow in white flowers by Daves BirdingPix

Song Sparrow in white flowers by Daves BirdingPix


Dear Young Readers:

I fancy many of the little folks who are readers of Birds are among my acquaintances. Though I have never spoken to you, I have seen your eyes brighten when my limpid little song has been borne to you by a passing breeze which made known my presence. Once I saw a pale, worn face turn to look at me from a window, a smile of pleasure lighting it up. And I too was pleased to think that I had given some one a moment’s happiness. I have seen bird lovers (for we have lovers, and many of them) pause on the highway and listen to my pretty notes, which I know as well as any one have a cheerful and patient sound, and which all the world likes, for to be cheered and encouraged along the pathway of life is like a pleasant medicine to my weary and discouraged fellow citizens. For you must know I am a citizen, as my friend Dr. Coues calls me, and all my relatives. He and Mrs. Mabel Osgood Wright have written a book about us called “Citizen Bird,” and in it they have supported us in all our rights, which even you children are beginning to admit we have. You are kinder to us than you used to be. Some of you come quickly to our rescue from untaught and thoughtless boys who, we think, if they were made to know how sensitive we are to suffering and wrong, would turn to be our friends and protectors instead. One dear boy I remember well (and he is considered a hero by the Song Sparrows) saved a nest of our birdies from a cruel school boy robber. Why should not all strong boys become our champions? Many of them have great, honest, sympathetic hearts in their bosoms, and, if we can only enlist them in our favor, they can give us a peace and protection which for years we have been sighing. Yes, sighing, because our hearts, though little, are none the less susceptible to all the asperities—the terrible asperities of human nature. Papa will tell you what I mean: you would not understand bird language.

Did you ever see my nest? I build it near the ground, and sometimes, when kind friends prepare a little box for me, I occupy it. My song is quite varied, but you will always recognize me by my call note, Chek! Chek! Chek! Some people say they hear me repeat “Maids, maids, maids, hang on your teakettle,” but I think this is only fancy, for I can sing a real song, admired, I am sure, by all who love

Song Sparrow.


SONG SPARROW.Melospiza fasciata.

Range—Eastern United States and British Provinces, west to the Plains, breeding chiefly north of 40°, except east of the Alleghenies.

Nest—On the ground, or in low bushes, of grasses, weeds, and leaves, lined with fine grass stems, roots, and, in some cases, hair.

Eggs—Four to seven; varying in color from greenish or pinkish white to light bluish green, spotted with dark reddish brown.

Song Sparrow by Ray

Song Sparrow by Ray at Stoney Creek, Ontario, Canada

Lee’s Addition:

The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, And with my song I will praise Him. (Psalms 28:7 NKJV)

The Song Sparrow is one of the species in the Emberizidae – Buntings, New World Sparrows & Allies Family

Adult song sparrows have brown upperparts with dark streaks on the back and are white underneath with dark streaking and a dark brown spot in the middle of the breast. They have a brown cap and a long brown rounded tail. Their face is grey with a streak through the eye. The Song Sparrow lays 3–5 eggs. The egg coloring is a brown spotted greenish-white.

The male of this species uses its melodious and fairly complex song to declare ownership of its territory and to attract females.

The Song Sparrow’s song consists of a combination of repeated notes, quickly passing isolated notes, and trills. The songs are very crisp, clear, and precise, making them easily distinguishable by human ears. A particular song is determined not only by pitch and rhythm but also by the timbre of the trills. Although one bird will know many songs—as many as 20 different tunes with as many as 1000 improvised variations on the basic theme,—unlike thrushes, the Song Sparrow usually repeats the same song many times before switching to a different song.

Song Sparrows typically learn their songs from a handful of other birds that have neighboring territories. They are most likely to learn songs that are shared in common between these neighbors.

Song Sparrow by Ray - Stoney Creek Ontario Canada

Song Sparrow by Ray – Stoney Creek Ontario Canada


Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited

The above article is an article in the monthly serial for September 1897 “designed to promote Knowledge of Bird-Live.” These include Color Photography, as they call them, today they are drawings. There are at least three Volumes that have been digitized by Project Gutenberg.

To see the whole series of – Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited


(Information from Wikipedia and other internet sources)

Next Article – The Cuckoo

The Previous Article – The Hermit Thrush

Gospel Presentation


Bible Birds – Sparrows

Birds of the Bible – Sparrows

Song Sparrow – Wikipedia

Song Sparrow – All About Birds

Emberizidae – Buntings, New World Sparrows & Allies Family