We love dark-eyed juncos
By now, winter bird-feeding season is in full swing. Most of the U.S. and border regions in Canada see an upswing in visits by the Dark-Eyed Junco, one of the most common birds spotted in Christmas Bird Counts. The juncos are a huge help to backyard birdwatchers because they prefer to feed off the ground. That means they're cleaning up the seed that other birds toss aside -- namely white proso millet, which is often considered a filler in commercial feed.
Since they migrate south into the U.S. during the winter, juncos are often called "Snowbirds." These sparrows aren't very snowy looking though -- they have slate-gray feathers with a white underbelly and a pale bill.
While they generally prefer to feed on the ground or on platform feeders, you can also entice them up to "bird feeder" height with a large hopper feeder that has a wide tray. Juncos are also attracted to suet as long as it's offered low to the ground.
In nature, juncos practice a foraging method called "riding," which lets them use gravity to their advantage. A bird will land on the top of a grass stem and allow its weight to push the grass down to the ground. From there, the junco will pluck seeds while standing on the stem.
Junco nests are always on the ground, near brush, in mudbanks or near fallen logs. They produce 3 to 5 eggs, which are incubated by the female. Both parents feed the young, which hatch in about two weeks.
Learn more about the Dark-Eyed Junco in the Bird Library.
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