Dark-eyed Junco

A Dark-eyed Junco beside a rain/snow melt puddle.

Al Crisalli Jr. took this photo of Dark-eyed Junco beside a rain/snow melt puddle. Dark-eyed Juncos (Junco hyemalis) are a type of sparrow and they are one of the most abundant of forest birds.

In spring and summer they are only found in the highest elevations of the Tehachapi Mountains, but in winter they become seasonally abundant and will visit backyard bird feeders as well as foraging in groups through our oak woodlands.

Juncos are the "snowbird" mentioned or referred to in some songs and stories, such as "Gone away is the bluebird, Here to stay is the new bird. . . Play it snowbirds, hey!"

Also known as "the little black-headed birds," Juncos are overall soft grayish, tan or dark brown colors with a black head, and their outside tail feathers are white, offering a distinctive way to recognize them as they flit away from you during a drive or stroll through the countryside.

Juncos mostly forage on the ground, often hopping rather than walking, much like their relatives and frequent associates during the winter, the White-crowned Sparrows. These small birds in their black and white striped caps also appear in abundance during the winter and vanish with the warmer weather of spring.

Juncos are primarily seedeaters that, like most songbirds, feed their young mainly insects in order to provide the nestlings with the protein they require to grow quickly.

NATURAL SIGHTINGS is a regular feature of the Tehachapi News edited by Jon Hammond which showcases photos of the natural beauty that enhances the quality of life in Tehachapi. If you have a good quality image of plants, animals, insects, trees, birds, weather phenomena, etc., taken in the Tehachapi area, you may submit it to the Tehachapi News for possible publication. Submissions can be dropped by the News office in the form of a print or CD, or sent by email to: editorial@tehachapinews.com.