“Throughout North America the junco, a slate-colored sparrow-sized with a flashy white-sided tail, rules the urban jungle.” —Welcome to Subirdia by John Marzluff
Not just sparrow-sized, the junco is a proud member of the American sparrow family. This family, Emberizidae, includes towhees, longspurs, Neotropical grassquits, Old World seedeaters and some Old World buntings. In Latin junco means Reed Bunting, an Old World bird with a sparrow’s beak and a black head. Hyemalis refers to winter when this little bird flocks into towns and cities across North America.
In Ashland we sometimes have five dozen in our garden, here in more urbanized McMinnville we still over two dozen in winter.Whenever I seer this hardy, doughty, successful little bird I remind myself that they breed on the ground…but do it so well they even breed in city parks. Only once have I actually seen a Junco nest. It was in a tuft of grass just outside a patch of forest at 4500′ elevation near Howard Prairie Lake in Jackson County, Oregon. In years birding in San Francisco I never found a single nest in Golden Gate Park where the bird is a common breeder.
Fellow birder Pamela Johnston shares this haiku:
“In pouring rain
a Junco sings”