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Migratory bird populations have taken a nose dive in the past 40 years. But you can help bring their numbers back by creating beneficial, beautiful and fun habitats in your own backyard. Discover favorite plants and environments that shelter and feed colorful songbirds, as well as how to make them feel welcome by offering their preferred natural foods.

Grandma Pearl
(Connie Smith)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Dark-Eyed Slate-colored Junco

 

DSCF0011Meet my Juncos from the Northeast U.S.!  These energetic ground feeding birds are with me year round.  They are most comfortable on the ground; juncos even prefer to nest on the ground, although they won’t turn down any opportunity.  A star decoration at my front door area makes a fine home for my juncos, even though it is roughly 7 feet off the ground. Juncos have a cool defense mechanism should a predator venture too close.  They flash their tails, which have bright white edges on either side, as they take flight.  It is enough to momentarily confuse the interloper so the junco can fly away safely.

goldfinches and juncos picking up seeds in the snow

Juncos devour black oil sunflower seeds when I toss them on the ground.  They mingle easily with the goldfinches, who sport darker plumage this time of year.  Notice that juncos (6”) are a little larger than the finches (4.5”).

 

DSCF0012

You can plainly see the brown on this female’s back, which distinguishes her from the male, whose coloration is a darker gray without the brown.  Both she and he have very white bellies, helping them to blend in with the snowy background.  Birds fluff up their feathers as a way to fend off the cold.  This action creates air pockets that efficiently act as a thermal barrier, keeping their body heat in and the cold air out.

Listen for a distinctive ‘smack, smack’ interspersed with little twittering sounds, as they socialize with one another.  I love their songs, which remind me of lyrical sparrows, with lovely musical notes.

My juncos perch in smaller trees and shrubs, under bushes, and in open areas of grass.  They love insects as well as seeds, and seem to be especially fond of small juicy caterpillars.  Their beaks are strong enough to crack the seeds they love, as well as manage almost any insect that comes along.

male junco on branch

This male junco likes to patrol my garden for insects.  Because it is a fenced area, he often uses the posts to survey the territory.  There is no need for pesticides because my friendly and beneficial birds are always on the case.  I rely on them to keep my gardens pest free, which also keeps them well fed—it’s a win-win!

Learn more about:

The Juncos I Have Come to Know

Best Ground Feeder for Juncos

Grandma Pearl

2 comments:

Shauna said...

What pretty fat little birds! And Nature's pest control to boot. You're right, Connie. Having Juncos in your yard is a win-win!

Connie Smith said...

Shauna, I love these little energetic guys. They do a number on insects and weed seeds, and they are very well behaved!