Canadian Ground Crew

They arrived last October, riding the cold north wind, content to spend their winter vacation in the chilly, gray confines of the American Heartland. For the past six months, they have scoured the ground beneath our wood borders, thickets, shrub rows and feeders, feasting on a wide variety of seeds.

Natives of the vast Canadian forests, dark-eyed juncos and white-throated sparrows are among our most common winter visitors. Oblivious to the cold and snow, they survive on nature's prolific seed crop and, by doing so, keep our weed population in check. Of course, they also indulge in human handouts, devouring seed that is spread about by their squabbling cousins.

As the days lengthen and balmy conditions return to the Midwest, these Canadians long for the cool climate of their native country. Juncos begin to disappear early in April and, throughout the month, the homesick tune of the white-throated sparrow increases in intensity. By May, when the threat of snow and ice has finally passed, these hardy visitors have escaped to the north.