Returning Junco?

A few days after Connor started spreading some bird food around the yard a couple of weeks ago, the Dark-eyed Juncos discovered it and have since been frequent visitors. Among them is an individual (shown above) with unusual pale feather coloring on its wings and tail. The pattern of coloring is quite similar to a bird that visited our yard frequently three years ago, the last time we had feeders out (shown below). So much so, that I’m pretty sure it must be the same bird.

It’s unusual for me to be able to keep track of an individual bird for a few minutes while watching even a small group of birds. It’s pretty much unprecendented that I recognize an individual I have not seen for three years. In some way it’s like the return of an old friend. I’m happy about the return of this bird, and find that I wonder what it’s been up to over the last couple of years. Where does it go for the summer breeding season? Has it been in the neighborhood the last two winters? It seems likely, but I don’t remember ever seeing it.

The return of this individual also makes me wonder how many of the juncos that I see each winter around the neighborhood are here every winter. I’m sure mortality is pretty high from year to year. In some respects it’s pretty amazing that this bird with plumage that is not necessarily optimal for hiding, has managed to survive when I’m sure many of his peers didn’t. According to the Birds of North America on-line, Dark-eyed Juncos have been observed to live at least 11 years in the wild (found via bird banding work). Although it seems unlikely that we will live in this neighborhood for more than a year or two into the future, I think it would be neat to see this bird again each winter.

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