A LIFE BIRD is any species, (or in this, case subspecies) that you have not seen in your life. Well, I got one!
I have have been looking for a Pink-sided Junco my entire life and perhaps I have even seen one. Goddess knows that I have tried to tease one out from the many thousands of “Oregon” type juncos that I have enjoyed lo these decades. Much caution should be used when putting the name “Pink-sided Junco” on a bird one might encounter here in coastal Northern California. Many Oregon Juncos show markings that reflect the Pink-sided. Some can be bluish headed, can have dark lores and be quite pinkish on the flanks.
This bird was found originally on Feb. 18th 2013 by Steve Howell at the Wildlife Gallery as it came into the seed. Steve saw the bird only very briefly and without the aid of binoculars. He let me know that he had seen a provocative bird so I was on the look out. The next day I was “visually slammed” when this BLUISH headed, blackish lored and very pink sided Junco dropped into to patio for two or three seconds. It instantly flushed and headed into the large willow that forms the backdrop for the patio. I was able to get some very poor footage of the bird and then suddenly, it was gone! I did not see the bird until the next day. I was VERY eager to see this bird again. Steve came by with camera and thankfully the bird came in and we were both able to photograph it. This bird is distinct and different from anything I have ever seen. It is very well marked.
Description: Head, nape and breast, even colored glossy gray-blue, contrasting with the back and flanks. The extent of the gray-blue hood of this bird seems strikingly more expansive than the black hood of the Oregon Junco. Lores contrastingly blackish. Some very little blackish smudging on the chin. Eye dark. Bill light pink. Back brown with no hint of rust or warmth. Shows faint (4 or 5) slightly darker streaks on the back. Flanks pinkish, fully colored and extensive in area. The extent of the flank color was so expansive that it nearly met in the center and continues to the very rear end of the flanks. There is however a thin white strip up the middle of the belly. Rump, gray-blue. Tail, central feathers blackish with gray-blue edges, outer tail feathers, largely white. When viewed from the side, the only white showing on the bird are its striking under tail coverts and edge of the closed tail. The tertials are dark centered and are edged thinly in buff. The lesser wing coverts are gray-blue. The greater wing coverts are dark centered and edged thinly with brown on the inner feathers. The outer ones are edged with gray-blue. Legs, dusky pinkish. The bird has not been seen next to any other Juncos for direct size comparison.
While I hope the Pink-sided Junco reappears, it was last seen at the gallery on Feb. 23rd 2013.
How’s this for an interesting twist.
PRBO biologists Khara Strum and Ryan Di Gaudio came by the gallery to look for the bird but were unsuccessful. However, the next day Khara took these photos at their feeder and sent them to me!!! Whether this is the same bird looking slightly different because of lighting, camera… I’m not sure, but this bird also appears to be a (or the) Pink-sided Junco!!!