Juncos Are Common Fall Migrants

Usually, mid October is a time when I start seeing the first Dark-Eyed Juncos appearing in the yard.  These small, sparrow-sized birds are one of the most common visitors to feeders in winter.   In fact, here in southern Michigan, I saw the first ones only 4 days ago. Dark Eyed Junco - male

 Many people actually call them by their colloquial name “Snowbirds” because they seem to love the cold, white stuff.   The more the better!  I’ve seen them in the middle of a howling snowstorm hopping around on the ground underneath my birdfeeders. 

Juncos can be seen almost anywhere in the continental U.S. in fall and winter.  The Dark-Eyed Junco is the main species seen.  They have two major color variations.  In the east, there are mostly the Dark-Eyed Juncos with the slate-colored backs and white undersides.  In the west, mostly the “Oregon” sub-group are seen.  These have a dark, slate hood, lighter gray back, and a slight band of reddish-brown on the flank above a white belly.  Another Junco, the Yellow-Eyed can be seen in southern Arizona and New Mexico.

Juncos often are seen in small flocks.  They love seed from birdfeeders and almost always feed on or near the ground.  Favorite seeds include white millet, cracked corn, and thistle (if it falls from finch feeders to the ground).  You can either spread seed on the ground, or better, put it in an elevated ground feeder.  These feeders are wood or recycled plastic trays with legs about 6-9 inches high. 

You can enjoy Juncos for much of the fall and all winter.  In spring, usually April, Juncos will often start to sing after being quiet all winter.  This is just before they migrate to their northern breeding areas in the far northern U.S. and Canada.

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Cornell Lab of Ornithology