[Tweeters] Observations of a Dark Eyed Junco

Rob Sandelin nwnature1 at gmail.com
Fri Jul 5 12:29:17 PDT 2013

In my Mother-in-laws backyard this morning I sat with my coffee and watched
what I assumed was a family of DEJ (Dark-eyed Junco). 2 larger adult birds,
3 smaller, fledglings. What caught my attention was the pattern of use of
the white tail feathers of the adults. The whole group was widely separated
around the yard and one or the other of the adults would stop foraging, fly
into an open area which allowed a view of the group and would flick open its
tail such that the white would flash, then compress the tail so the white
was hidden. It did this consistently 3-5 times in a row. This behavior was
repeated as the adults traded off between foraging and doing what I thought
of as the "watching" behavior.

Then a few minutes later I happened to have both adults in view, and right
after the "watching non-foraging" adult flashed, the other adult flashed
twice. I saw this repeated once again a bit later. I would have liked to
have spent more time to see if the patterns consistently repeated but family
agendas dragged me off.

Now I am curious as to the extent such flashing behavior is used, in what
circumstances. Was it really some kind of communication pattern or did I
happen to observe a random behavior that by chance formed a pattern. Lots of
questions from a brief time watching a common bird.

Rob Sandelin
Naturalist, Writer, Teacher
Snohomish County, WA

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