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Snowbirds

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Published on: Nov. 2, 1995

Last revision: Oct. 20, 2010

Missouri's snowbird, actually called the dark-eyed junco, nests in northern lands and comes here to spend the winter. The junco, which is actually a sparrow, arrives neither clothed in bright plumage nor full of song. Being a snowbird isn't a popular job; its coming forecasts shorter, colder and whiter days.

The junco is our most common winter bird and is easy to recognize: dark above, white below, with a pinkish bill. White outer tail feathers flash conspicuously when the bird takes flight. Males are darker than the gray or brownish females.

These winter birds actually begin arriving as early as late September and may stick around until the first days of May. They are common around backyard feeders but prefer to eat on the ground.

A small brush pile placed near your bird feeders will provide cover and security for juncos and other ground-feeders. (Old Christmas trees make great instant brush piles.) Scatter some millet or sunflower seeds nearby and chances are good that your yard will be a winter retreat for the snowbird.

And when the snow begins to fly, try not to blame the juncos

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