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Full Version: red fox sparrow - Little Spring and white-winged junco - Wilson Meadow
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I headed out today to look for my number one feathered unicorn (still a big, fat nope).  As consolation prizes - I found a white-winged junco at Wilson Meadow just past the gate at the parking area (thanks Lauren for confirmation!) and a red fox sparrow on FR418B on the way in to Little Spring.  The junco allowed time for three lousy photos before vanishing, but the fox sparrow was more obliging. 

Great finds Anne!
Awesome find with the junco Anne, I've been looking for one for nearly 20 years.
Per Sibley, that junco looks a lot more like a variant slate-colored than a white-winged. I don't see a hint of a mask around the eyes or the black lores that white-winged should have.
I noticed the same thing (Sibley depicts a black mask, which this bird lacks), but then a different guide (Sparrows of the US by Rising/Beadle) doesn't show the black mask.  So... Reasons I think it's a white-winged junco.  1) patterned like a slate-colored, but the gray is too pale.  2) pale edging on the tertials, which seems to be a feature limited to white-winged juncos. 

Information I don't have: extent of white in the tail and relative size compared to other juncos.  Sibley, Rising, and Pyle all note white-wings have the most white in the rects of the DEJU groups.  Rising and Pyle also note this is supposed to be a relatively 'large' junco - larger than slate-colored, anyway.  I can't find discussion of the black mask anywhere.  Sibley depicts it, Rising/Beadle don't, and Pyle doesn't mentioned it at all  (apparently some subspecies of the slate-colored group can have black lores??).  Does anyone out there have more info for ID?  Juncos are fascinating and any chance to learn...  Smile

Strong work!  I stopped by Little Spring for an hour on 25 November in hopes something interesting might be coming into the water what with the extended dry spell...alas not much was showing.
here's the AZFO page for the WWJU that was on the South Rim 4 years ago:
IMHO, a very standard White-winged Junco. I wouldn't worry much about the appearance of the lores from one blurry photo. The light gray plumage is typical of the majority of White-wingeds and is quite unlike the darker slate of a Slate-colored. Appears to have a good amount of white in the tail. The brown wash on the back is typical of a 1st year bird. A noticeable proportion of young birds (likely females) lack wing bars entirely, and have an even stronger brown wash on the back, tertials, and flanks. I look through scores every winter in CO, and I can attest that they are much more variable in appearance than field guides give them credit. There is also good evidence for intergrades with Pink-sided and Gray-headed, but this bird doesn't look like either of those.

I just spent the weekend in the Black Hills of SD. I found a few White-wingeds but not tons. My time being a tourist didn't lend itself to rigorous sampling, but generally I was surprised that I found so few. They seem to be reasonably common where I live in Lyons, CO this fall, but I haven't been out in their habitat enough to get a real sense of their abundance this year. I have three that come to my feeders daily, along with about 40 individuals of other flavors. So far an unseasonably warm and dry fall in the Front Range of CO and Black Hills of SD. Maybe there's something going on that will make it an "irruption" year for you folks down in N. AZ. Keep an eye out, Tom.

I have an album of junco photos here if you want to poke around:

Christian Nunes
Thanks for all the ID info and feedback!  I know juncos can be variable and learning the extent is quite interesting.  I had no idea that white-winged juncos could vary so much in how light or dark the gray is.