Spring is slow coming this year, but as a result we recently had on our carport/roof/feeder a huge flock of redpolls, the sparrow-like birds which “irrupt” every other year or so from the far north. They have a red top knot (hard to see in poor light) and the males have a pink breast.

We’ve never had as many migrating juncos, which everyone knows because of the white-sided tails that flash when they fly. As of April 21 a number of them are still coming in every day. If you look with binoculars at the beak you will see that it is clearly pink! And even without binos you can tell the dark grey, almost black ones, the males, from the females which are lighter grey/brown.

On that nasty day of “winter mix” a couple weeks ago it was amusing to watch the juncos skating on the invisible ice covering the sloping tin roof. There was a great flapping of wings and spreading of tails as they tried to keep their balance, but they managed to keep feeding, not seeming to get irritated as most of us would have. When the sleet got thick the redpolls did a two-foot hop back to scrape down to the seed. A song sparrow, that very hardy, early singer, took advantage of the seeds that day too.

A brilliant-white-morph white-throated sparrow has been visiting too, unusual for us. Today a tan-morph fed at the same time, the stripes on the head being buff instead of white. Both have a beautifully white bib. These two are probably a pair as they breed here in the spring, but the very odd thing about these two versions of the species is that it is not a case of the male having the brilliant white stripes, the female being duller. (The stripes, that is.) Both genders can be either morph, but they always choose the opposite form for their mate. How do they know which one they are so they know to choose the other morph?? I don’t think this puzzle has been solved.

Vote on this Story by clicking on the Icon


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment