MILWAUKEE - If you've gone for a walk on a cold Wisconsin day odds are you've seen or heard one of our most common birds this time of year. But what is it?
This is a dark-eyed junco – otherwise known as the literal "snowbird" – comes and goes with the colder months of the year and is highly adaptive to numerous habitats. While many songbirds head much farther south to avoid harsh winters, the junco happily sticks around in the Upper Midwest.
Dark-eyed Juncos fluff up in the winter to help increase the amount of air in their feathers to trap heat
One noticeable feature is when they fly off, their bright white tail feathers are easy to track as they flutter away into a nearby shrub or tree. Even on the coldest winter days, you can see them foraging the ground for seeds and are common visitors to bird feeders.
They'll spend the entire winter in Wisconsin then, by spring, retreat back into Canada for summer. It's not just here they can be found; in every single state other than Hawaii they call home at some point of the year. They are one of the most widespread and successful bird species native to Wisconsin.
Oregon Juncos have more brown on their sides and are much more common out west
In the western portion of the U.S., a brown color is more common than slate. This distinguishes them to a close relative, the Oregon junco.