The Urban Dictionary defines a snowbird as “an elderly Yankee that migrates down to the South to winter when their natural habitat of New York, Ohio, or Michigan is too cold for them.”1
But the real snowbirds are from Canada. They are truly birds called dark eyed juncos. A junco is a medium-sized sparrow. Each fall, these slate-gray birds with white bellies journey as far south as northern Florida. Juncos retreat to Canada to breed when spring approaches.
During a recent November visit to my daughter’s home in Maryland, I observed juncos eating the seeds that spilled from a feeder suspended over her balcony. Wispy snow, released from light-gray skies, tumbled on the hilly backyard terrain and coated tree branches, shrubs and the woodland floor. Juncos landed on the snow-covered deck and scratched the fluffy precipitation to find and eat the hidden seeds.
When I lived in New York, the junco’s appearance was the harbinger of winter and the snows that would soon follow. Unlike the disdain expressed by the author of the definition for human snowbirds in the Urban Dictionary, we affectionately called the Juncos – “snowbirds”.