Snow birds of the north

I know that when I see the Dark Eyed Junco show up at my feeder it’s a sign that winter is near. Although that isn’t great news to most of us, I find the sight of new snow peppered with a flock of Juncos one of the best sights of winter.

Juncos spend the winter in flocks of 6 to 30 or more birds. Each flock has a dominance hierarchy with adult males at the top, then juvenile males, females and finally young females. Although they look like they are playing as they frolic in the snow, they are actually aggressively challenging each other. Either way, they could entertain me for hours.

Juncos live in the forests of the western mountains and Canada. They move into the rest of North America for the winter once a cold front moves in. These birds have also been called “snow birds” since they seem to show up when the snow does, but it is also believed that the name could come from their gray backs and white underbellies or “leaden skies above, snow below.”

Juncos foraging in the wild use a method called “riding.” They fly up to a seed cluster on a grass stem and “ride” it to the ground where they pick off all the seeds. Ingenious little birds who know how to get what they want!

If you are interested in learning more about Juncos or other birds that visit your feeder come in and borrow one of our bird identification books.

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