This audio story is brought to you by BirdNote, a partner of the National Audubon Society. BirdNote episodes air daily on public radio stations nationwide.


This is BirdNote.

The Dark-eyed Junco is one of the most abundant backyard birds in North America. Every September, hordes of them move south from the boreal forest, to winter across the US and southern Canada. 

The familiar gray and white “snowbird” is not our only junco, though. 

In the Southwest, a different species, the Yellow-eyed Junco, lives in cool mountain forests from Arizona and New Mexico, through Mexico into Guatemala. The southern bird shares the neat plumage and ground-hugging habits of its dark-eyed cousin. 

But its eyes are an improbably bright golden-yellow, like tiny brass buttons, polished to a brilliant shine and pinned to the little bird’s face.

The great explorer and ornithologist, Francis Sumichrast was in Veracruz, Mexico in the 1860s. He reported that the locals called the junco echa-lumbre [AITCH-ah LOOMbray], the caster of fire, or lightning bird. The Veracrucians, he explained, thought the birds were phosphorescent, collecting light during the day and releasing it at night in the dim pine forests. 

One look at the Yellow-eyed Junco’s weird spangled eyes, and you might almost believe it yourself. 

For BirdNote, I’m Michael Stein.

Today’s show brought to you by the Bobolink Foundation.



Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York.  77216 recorded by Curtis A. Marantz, 174114 recorded by Lucas DeCicco, and 109103 recorded by Geoffrey A. Keller. 

BirdNote's theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler. Producer: John Kessler

Executive Producer: Sallie Bodie

© 2016 Tune In to   October 2018   Narrator: Michael Stein

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