Daily Archives: January 24, 2015

Juncos do look best in snow


I have been trying to get a good shot of a Dark-eyed Junco. They flit faster than I can catch them.

They are here all winter, but mostly down on the ground. But when the ground is fast covering with snow, as it is today (“Winter Storm Iola,” says The Weather Channel) they get closer, looking for seeds on the deck railing (I clear it regularly) or platform feeder.

Wikipedia: Dark-eyed Junco Taxonomy

The dark-eyed junco was described by Linnaeus in his 1758 Systema naturae as Fringilla hyemalis. The description consisted merely of the laconic remark “F[ringilla] nigra, ventre albo. (“A black ‘finch’ with white belly”), a reference to a source, and a statement that it came from “America”.

Linnaeus’ source was Mark Catesby who described the slate-colored junco before binomial nomenclature as his “snow-bird”, moineau de neige or passer nivalis (“snow sparrow”) thus:

“The Bill of this Bird is white: The Breast and Belly white. All the rest of the Body black; but in some places dusky, inclining to Lead-color. In Virginia and Carolina they appear only in Winter: and in Snow they appear most. In Summer none are seen. Whether they retire and breed in the North (which is most probable) or where they go, when they leave these Countries in Spring, is to me unknown.”

Still, at least the slate-colored junco is unmistakable enough to make it readily recognizable even from Linnaeus’ minimal description. Its modern scientific name means “winter junco”, from Latin hyemalis “of the winter”.