Chapter of the Month

Chapter of the Month: Highlands Plateau Audubon- How to Tell the Tourists from the Natives

Audubon North Carolina has 10 amazing chapters across the state who help put a local focus on bird preservation and conservation issues. In this special blog series, we’ll focus on a chapter each month to learn more about their history, what they are working on, and to increase the statewide understanding of special ecosystems and habitats. Each month will include a series of posts about each chapter including a post from our biologists that will share a unique research project that is happening in the chapter’s geographic footprint.

This month, we get to know the Highlands Plateau Audubon Society. Read on to learn more about our chapter serving parts of Western North Carolina.

As we go deeper into nesting and migration season, enjoying the little land birds we consider to be “ours” and welcoming a few traveling tourists just passing through, think about the possibility that you may not know the entire story. If put to the test; do you think you could properly identify the locals from travelers?

The Dark-eyed Junco is one of the most common and easily recognized birds in the US, but it may also have had you fooled.

The Dark-eyed Junco was most recently estimated at a population of 630 million, but it’s story doesn’t stop there! Most of us eastern bird nerds have grown up knowing our native Southern Appalachian birds as the Slate-colored Junco, but due to recent studies, it has been moved to be a subspecies of the Dark-eyed.

And that’s what makes our Slate-colored Juncos so special – we have our very own sub-species of Junco calling Western North Carolina home!

How To Spot the Tourist

Tourist (L). Native J. hyemalis carolinensis (R).

Here is a great tip for distinguishing between our native birds and the migrating visitors:  Have you ever been that tourist sporting sunburn? The migrant, Slate-colored Juncos (the tourists) are sporting pink bills just like your sunburn, while our own Dark-eyed has a gray, horn-colored bill.

So be sure to check out your feeders this spring – you may just see our natives as well as the tourists, and furthermore, you’ll know which is which!

Audubon North Carolina oversees statewide conservation projects year-round. To donate to this and other efforts protecting birds, click here.

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