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Nature & You: You might know this bird by its moniker

A dark-eyed junco, also known as a "snow bird," sits on a snow-covered branch. [AP Photo]
A dark-eyed junco, also known as a "snow bird," sits on a snow-covered branch. [AP Photo]

Say what you will about Oklahoma's winter weather (and who doesn't?), there are plenty of unfortunate souls north of us who have to endure some gosh-awful, bone-chilling temperatures.

Many wild birds skedaddle out of the north country and come down and spend the winter with us. They're no fools. Oklahoma is a dandy place to live.

Chances are good that if you look out of your home's window, you'll most likely see a little feathered sprite that most people call "snow birds." They are the ones that look like they are wearing an executioner's hood. 

Spare yourself some grief and frustration. Don't even bother to attempt to look them up in a bird identification book. You're going to be forced to resort to their "official" common name — the dark-eyed junco.

Between you and me, I see no harm whatsoever in calling them "snow birds.” In my opinion, it is a very apt moniker. They are here when the snow is on the ground, and they are absent when the summer heat returns.

I like to toss some food out for them. White Proso Millet seems to do the trick. It is best to just scatter it directly on the ground, since this bird species does not cotton to the notion of getting their food out of a standard-issue bird feeder. 

Pay particular attention to the intensity of the black color of the feathers on their head. It has a lot to do with who are the boys and who are the girls. Also, the ones that came down from Montana don't look exactly like the ones that came from Minnesota.

"Snow birds" are a welcome addition to our home's backyard, and it is but further proof that you and I live in a wonderful winter home  —  a little bit chilly ... but ... very seldom oppressively cold. 

Neil Garrison

Neil Garrison is an outdoor nature enthusiast. He is a graduate of Oklahoma State University/Stillwater; he earned a B.S. degree in Wildlife Ecology. Prior to his 2009 retirement, he was the Naturalist at a central Oklahoma nature center for 30... Read more ›