Scientific Name: Junco hyemalis
Pictures: (click for larger images)
A male Dark-eyed Junco. This was NOT in Westwood, but in Simi Valley (≈30 minutes north). Since these birds are so rare in Westwood, I figured I'd probably never get a photo of them here, so a photo from somewhere else is better than none at all. 9/5/05 Saw a small family of these guys perched on a railing at a horse ranch. Here's the female, or mama bird. And here's the fat baby Dark-eyed Junco! More Dark-eyed Juncos have been spotted around campus in May 2006, including this male who was singing from atop a tree next to the Inverted Fountain and then photographed here on the ground next to Franz Hall. 5/17/06
-Photo by Jason Finley
-Illustration by Robert C. Stebbins from "Birds of the Campus" (1947) by Dr. Loye Miller.
Description: Small. 6" in length (beak to tail), slightly smaller than a sparrow. Black head, white beak, brown back, and white chest. Features more distinctive in males.
Commonality/Seasonality: Uncommon, potentially year-round, but much more likely in Fall/Winter.
Location: Unpredictable. Could pretty much show up anywhere as far as I know. The first place I ever saw them on campus was in the Botanical Garden; there maybe four of them. Sean Hoppes reports that he "had 3 that frequented my feeder on Midvale for a little while. I can't remember exactly when, but I think it was in December 2004 or January 2005." More were seen in 2005 at the Sunset Canyon Rec Center.
More of these little dudes have popped up in 2006. Males have been seen (and heard doing their soft singing!) at Stone Canyon Creek, in the trees and shrubs around the Inverted Fountain, and in trees and shrubs along Charles Young Drive next to the Chemistry building.
Notes: These little guys are apparently fairly common elsewhere, like in the hills and suburbs, but we rarely get them here. That said, if you ever see a little bird with a black head and a white beak, it'll be a giveaway! Oh, I've read they like to forage on the ground... like towhees perhaps (except a lot smaller)?
Historical: Dr. Loye Miller wrote about the "Sierra Junco " as it was known back then:
On March 25, 1940, a flock of about ten birds appeared about the south parking lot. On December 8, 1942, they were reported from the sycamores. They should appear more often in winter unless we are too near the sea. They are often found in the Santa Monica hills.
-Miller, Loye. "Birds of the Campus, University of California, Los Angeles," from University of California Syllabus Series, No. 300. Text by Loye Miller, illustrations by Robert C. Stebbins. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1947.