This winter visitor is a bird known as the Dark-eyed Junco (Junco ardoisé in French). Watching these sweet birds makes me think about how the early French settlers to North America must have viewed their new landscape. Here in the South, these little gray birds visit mostly during winter, except perhaps the far reaches of places like the coast of Lousiana. I sometimes wonder if some of my junco visitors return to Québec in the summer, much like tourists returning from winter vacations in Florida.
Juncos eat insects and seeds, and their winter diet is further supplemented by berries. They must adapt to a changing landscape in winter, despite already being a hardy group of birds. Again, this makes me think of the early French settlers. Whether they settled in colder areas such as Québec or L'Acadie, or in the southern United States, they likely turned to berries just like the juncos, but only if they were lucky. Imagine what it was like for people like Father LeJeune between 1633 and 1634, as told in Susan McNelley's book, Hélène's World: Hélène Desportes of Seventeenth-Century Québec. Due to the lack of nutrition that could have been provided by berries, he had to rely on smoked meat that was not properly prepared. After suffering immensely for days, he forged through the wilderness, anyway. No wonder the juncos prefer heading south for the winter!
Interested in bringing more of these precious little birds into your area? This is one of my favorite links, courtesy of the Cornell University Lab: All About Birds. You will find that these birds have survived due to their industriousness and willingness to brave the elements. Sounds a lot like some of the early settlers from places like France, doesn't it?