Monday, November 1, 2010

The Colors of a Junco

Last night, my mother presented me with a junco she had found at her workplace; it had died after colliding with a window. She recounted how, after she had found the junco, she showed it to a family with a child, and they seemed to be very interested in seeing such a beautiful bird so close-up. By the time I received the junco, it was nearly dark outside, so I stowed it in my fridge to photograph today. It was much larger than I expected it to be -- it was about the size of a house sparrow, and certainly bigger than a chickadee. It felt strangely heavy.

October Junco I

Though its eyes were dry when it was found, the bird couldn't have been dead for long; I discovered tiny bird lice on its feathers this morning, leaving their host since it was deceased. Here is a view of a louse on the junco's breast feathers -- greatly enlarged, of course.

I'm always fascinated by bird feet. Not only do birds have very specialized feet depending on how and where they live, their scaly toes and sharp claws are such an interesting contrast to their soft, downy feathers.

October Junco III

I don't know much about juncos. They usually arrive in Ann Arbor around late-fall and stay for the winter. When I see them feeding at a birdfeeder, they're usually on the ground, eating fallen millet seeds. And as far as birds go, juncos are rather nondescript, with gray and white plumage. At least, that's what I thought...

October Junco IV

... until I took a closer look. In reality, all kinds of hues are mixed in with the junco's gray-and-white plumage: tawny browns and slate-blues, blacks and reds. It was amazing to have the chance to see such a beautiful palette of colors, and this has certainly increased my appreciation of juncos.

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