Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
from the the May 3, 2009 Newsletter, issued from the Siskiyou Mountains west of Grants Pass, Oregon:
Dark-eyed Juncos, small, dark gray, seed-eating birds with white bellies as if they've been snuggled in the snow, have been visiting birdfeeders across North America all this winter. By now many of them will have drifted off toward their northern breeding grounds, mainly in Canada.
The junco page of my 1966 copyrighted field guide doesn't mention Dark-eyed Juncos, but rather lists the Slate-colored, White-winged, Gray-headed, Oregon and Mexican Juncos. Nowadays all those juncos are regarded as interbreeding subspecies of the Dark-eyed Junco, except for the Mexican which, with its bright yellow eyes, is maintained apart as the Yellow-eyed Junco.
The Oregon Junco's black-hooded, rusty-red-sided plumage represents an extreme departure from the basic gray top, white bottom Dark-eyed Junco theme. You can see an Oregon perched on my friends' feeder above.
And now after all that name shuffling I read that some experts insist that the Oregon Junco constitutes a distinct-enough, genetically-isolated-enough grouping to be returned to its former status as a full species under its former name of JUNCO OREGANUS.
Who knows? All I know is that, on the average, Juncos here look a lot different from those back East, and it's a treat to see them.