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Seen a Dark-eyed Junco Yet?

Here in the eastern United States are ruby-throated hummingbirds have left (well I actually saw one hitting my pineapple sage flowers yesterday). We are now waiting for the Junco

concrete birdbaths

Our Little Black & White Sparrow Is a Junco

Not to confuse things but our little Junco is black & white, while on the west coast, around Oregon he would have a black head and an orange body like a male towhee.  

Our Junco, the Oregon Junco, and the Pink-sided Juncos are all part of the Dark-eyed Junco species. There is one more species called the Yellow-eyed Junco found in Arizonia. Both the dark-eyed and the yellow-eye are part of the Junco Genus.  

During the spring and summer nesting season the dark-eyed junco is nesting from the forest of the Appalachians to the very top of Canada. They will build their nest on the ground in a slight depression, next to a rock, or against a fallen root of a tree trunk. There is typically some type of protection above the nest from either foliage, rocks or tree trunks.   

The female builds the nest and broods the young. Both sexes feed the young. Insects are the primary food for the chicks. The insects will be regurgitated to feed the young. Once they fledge the Junco will switch to diet of mainly seeds and grains.   There are usually 2 clutches a year. With 4 to 6 eggs each. Incubation is about 2 weeks, and they will then fledge within another 2 weeks. Interesting since the Junco is a ground bird, they will leave the nest before they can fly. The chicks along with the adults can be seen hopping on the ground, turning over leaves looking for seeds.  

Once nesting season is over the Juncos start traveling south. They will move from the forest regions to more open land including your backyard. They are very common backyard birds.   

While moving south, and especially with the end of nesting season, their diet changes from insects to mainly seeds. These ground birds don’t typically come to a feeder. The best way to attract them is to toss a little millet onto the ground. Once they find it you may get a flock of them.   

They will be with us the entire winter. If you don’t have millet, just about any seed you throw on the ground will work.  

A close cousin to the dark-eyed junco is the Eastern Pheobe. They look a lot alike in terms of size and color. The quickest way to determine which is which is by looking at their location. Again, the junco will be on the ground and the phoebe, which is a “flycatcher” will be perched on a tree limb.  

Although the phoebe is with us pretty much all year, the junco should be arriving any day now. Keep a look out!

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