It arrives with the snow, which is why many know it as the snowbird. I grew up knowing it as the slate-colored junco. The field guides call it the Slate-colored, Dark-eyed or Northern Junco (Junco hyemalis). Snowbird is certainly fitting as they often arrive when the temperatures drop. There is a small breeding population in Ohio, but mostly they just visit in the winter and fly north to cooler climes in the summer.
They are a sparrow-sized bird. Indeed, they are members of the new world sparrow order Passeriformes. Males are slate grey on top and lighter grey or white underneath with a pink bill. Females and juveniles are similar but duller, brownish rather than slate grey.
Snowbirds eat insects in the summer and seeds and some berries in the winter. You may see them exhibiting an interesting behavior; riding the grass down. Juncos (and other sparrows) will land on the seed head at the top of a stalk of grass. Their weight bends the stalk and they ride the seed head down to the ground where their weight holds it in place as they eat the seeds out of the head. If you want to attract snowbirds to your yard, they like white proso millet, hulled sunflower seeds and chips and cracked corn. They are ground feeders so a flat feeder low to the ground or even seed spread on the ground will be attractive.
Look for more photos from award winning wildlife photographer, author and explorer Jim Lane on Instagram at jblane001.