Cheryl Modzelewski is Recreational Specialist for the US Army Corps of Engineers of Lake Shelbyville and coordinator of International Migratory Bird Day which will take place this year on May 12.

Modzelewski said, “In anticipation of those coming events, we will be introducing you to a different bird each month. We hope that you will enjoy the articles, and learn an interesting fact or two. To help you learn more about the birds in our area, we are offering one free ‘Birds of Illinois’ book by Stan Tekiela to a lucky person who successfully answers the question at the end of the article.”

The question for the January “Words About Birds” concerned the Dark-Eyed Junco. “The Dark-Eyed Junco appears in Central Illinois only in the winter months. Because of this, the Junco is often referred to as a___?

The answer is: “Early settlers called this delightful little winter bird “snowbird” because its arrival in late fall meant that winter was not far behind. In 1830, scientists adopted the name “junco” derived from the Latin “juncus,” a seed, to avoid confusion with the Snow Bunting species.

The winning entry was submitted by Betty Biehler of Shelbyville.

White-throated Sparrow

The White-throated Sparrow, along with the Dark-eyed Junco, is a winter visitor to central Illinois. The White-throat can be found in groups of as many as thirty on the edges of fields, in hedgerows and thickets, usually near water. You will most likely see them foraging on the ground under your back yard bird feeder. Like the junco, they use both feet at the same time to kick back leaf litter to uncover food. The American Kestrel or Sparrow Hawk is a predator of the White-throated Sparrow.

Among the twenty or so species of sparrows found in Illinois, the White-throated Sparrow can be positively identified and distinguished from the White-crowned Sparrow by a white throat patch and a yellow patch on both sides of the bird’s face between the eye and the upper bill.

Unique among birds, the White-throated Sparrow comes in two color morphs or forms: The white-crowned, with black and white stripes on its head and a gray chest; and the tan-crowned, with light tan and dark brown head stripes and a dull brown or tan chest. The color variation is neither age nor sex related. Both the male and female of the white-crowned morph tend to be dominating in behavior and select mates that are tan-crowned. White-crowned males and their mates usually nest in forest edge areas while tan-crowned males nest in denser forests. Both sexes of the tan-crowned morph have been observed providing more food and care for the young than their white-crowned mates.

Question of the month: What is the technical name for the area on each side of the bird’s face between the eyes and the upper bill? This is the yellow patch on the White-throated Sparrow.

Please mail your answer and contact information to: Cheryl Modzelewski, US Army Corps of Engineers, RR# 4 Box 128 B, Shelbyville, IL 62565. The winner is selected from a random drawing.

Also, Modzelewski wanted to remind bird-lovers that Corps-sponsored Bird Walks will begin April 17th at Lake Shelbyville.

Modzelewski commented, “Each Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. during the spring and fall bird migration, bird walks will be lead by local and area bird experts. Those wishing to participate should meet at the Lake Shelbyville Visitor’s Center at 8 a.m. Refreshments will be served after the walk. Bird Walks are free to the public.”

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