Juncos are Delightful Backyard Snowbirds

Dark-eyed Juncos are Fun Snowbirds to Have Around

For those who love birdwatching, snowbirds are delightful and energetic forest sparrows called Dark-eyed Juncos that suddenly show up in your backyard when it snows.

At first glance, these small birds might be hard to notice.

But take a second look.

Dark-eyed Juncos suddenly appear in your backyard when it snows
Dark-eyed Juncos suddenly appear in your backyard when it snows

Sights and Sounds of Juncos

Here in the east, juncos are dark gray, with beautiful black eyes and a pink beak.

They have a white or very pale belly, and their long dark tails have a hidden bright white streak on each side, flashed only when they fly.

And depending on the light they can look gray or blue and are quite striking against a backdrop of white snow.

The slate-backed Dark-eyed Juncos are dark gray, with beautiful black eyes and pink beak
The slate-backed Dark-eyed Juncos are dark gray, with beautiful black eyes and pink beak

North American Dark-eyed Juncos have six different color variations.

The most common variation here on the east coast is the slate-backed dark-eyed junco.

The other color patterns appear farther west, including reddish-brown variations.

Listen for Junco’s Ticking Calls

During winter, flocks of Juncos can be found around woodland edges and suburban yards, feeding on the ground, making ticking calls as they fly up into the bushes.

Listen for a rapid, high-pitched clicking sound when the birds get startled or their ‘Kew Kew Kew’ calls.

Be sure to listen for the junco's 'kew kew kew’ calls
Be sure to listen for the junco’s ‘kew kew kew’ calls

Juncos’ Feeding Behavior

Juncos forage mostly while hopping and running on the ground.

These birds come to feeders, and when they do prefer a platform or tray.

Juncos also tend to forage on the ground under the feeding tray.

Without snow, juncos feed on the ground around the edge of woods and bushes, looking for seeds and insects.

Snow seems to bring out the juncos and they look beautiful in it
Snow seems to bring out the juncos and they look beautiful in it

In snow, juncos become hyperactive, hopping around in the open.

And as soon as the first snowflake falls they suddenly appear everywhere.

Your backyard has more tiny gray birds than you can count.

Look for the junco’s hidden bright white streak on their long dark tails
Look for the junco’s hidden bright white streak on their long dark tails

Summer Feeding for Juncos

In warm weather, juncos eat mostly seeds and insects.

Nearly half of an adult junco’s summer diet consists of insects, including caterpillars, beetles, grasshoppers, true bugs, and others, also spiders.

Close to half of the junco's summer diet of adults consists of insects, including caterpillars, beetles, grasshoppers, true bugs, and others, also spiders
Close to half of the junco’s summer diet of adults consists of insects, including caterpillars, beetles, grasshoppers, true bugs, and others, also spiders

Interesting Junco Facts

-When a junco flashes its white tail feathers, it serves as an alarm to other members of the flock. 

-The Dark-eyed Junco was the most common feeder bird in North America during the 1996-1997 Project FeederWatch season.Dark-eyed Juncos are one of the most abundant forest birds of North America

Dark-eyed Juncos are one of the most abundant forest birds of North America-Juncos mainly eat insects and seeds. However, these birds sometimes eat their own droppings.

Next time it snows, be sure to look for these energetic birds because they’re a delight to watch.

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