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DougK-42

Dark Eyed Junko

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I was curious if anyone could enlighten me on the feeding habits of a Junko.

I see them feeding on the ground constantly, and fly into bushes when starteld. I've never seen them on an actual feeder though.

Thanks for any info.

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I have a few Juncos that winter in my yard every year. 99.9% of the time they do feed on the ground, and, as you observed, will fly into the bushes when startled. On a few rare occasions I have seen one fly up on the platform feeder for a few seconds, grab a morsel and fly back to the ground to eat it. So what you have seen appears to be typical Junco behavior.

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Yeah, they're almost exclusively ground feeders, along with doves and some sparrows.

Chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches show another fun feeder behavior.  They'll eat seeds, but their bills aren't well-adapted to shelling seeds like cardinal and finch bills.  Instead, they'll take a seed, fly off with it to a tree branch or other support, then hold the seed between their feet while they hammer it open.  You'll see them land on the feeder, take off with the seed after a few seconds, return to get another seed, take off, etc.  Many of them have preferred 'anvils' they fly back to each time to open the seeds.  A few may learn to hammer the seeds open right on the feeder itself, saving the energy of flying back and forth.

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It seems that Juncos' feet are not made to cling onto small perches.  If they try to hang onto one of our seed feeders they flap their wings the whole time and quickly fall off.

Nuthatches don't use their feet to open seeds, they use small holes in tree bark (or, in the case of one of our nuthatches, a hole in our wooden shingles) to hold the seed in place while they peck away the shell.  Nuthatches will store some seeds in holes in trees for later (just like chickadees and other birds), but sometimes they will cover them up so other birds won't find them.  BN #2 has observed a White- breasted Nuthatch place a seed in a hole, take some moss or bark, and stuff the hole with it to close it up.

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@The Bird Nuts  I've only seen them eating by naked eye, and with my vision it looks like they're holding the seed.  Thanks for the info!  There's a great article in this month's 'Living Bird' about the food storing habits of Grey Jays.

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I concur, mostly ground feeders but I occasionally see them at my feeder if they are particularly hungry, which is often the case during or following a snowstorm.  In fact, when I do see them more often than not there is snow on the ground.  Here, in Washington DC, we see them only in winter.  (By the way you'll note in a separate thread, I designated them my favorite winter bird.)

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I enjoy watching bird behavior as well.

As you and others have said, juncos are definitely most happy feeding on the ground with shrub cover nearby.  This year I have a hanging thistle feeder that they are always on.  They’re really the only birds using it; no finches at all here this winter.  That could be why they were able to take the time to get comfortable with it.  It’s a clinging type feeder but it has a bottom dish that they sit on.   Likewise I have had hanging trays in the past that they gladly used, but they were always easily intimidated by bigger birds, even sparrows and cardinals.

Like Mr. Ray Hairweave said above, they're the classic winter garden bird and earned their nickname 'Snowbird' well!

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