Backyard Birds: Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Juncos are one of the last native sparrows to migrate through Calgary each fall, and many of them often overwinter here.  I have at least eight that have been coming to my yard regularly for the last three weeks.  They will come to feeders, but like other sparrows, they prefer to feed on the ground or on a flat, open surface like a tray.  They can often be seen scratching in the snow to expose seeds.

Juncos can be identified by their dark hoods, white bellies, and white outer tail feathers that flash when they fly.  There are two common subspecies in Calgary;  “Slate-colored” which are all grey and can look almost black, and “Oregon” which have rusty back and sides.  In the spring, males have a very distinct black hood.

I have a non-native apple tree in my yard that stays green and fully leafed out until the end of November, so I often only become aware of juncos in the yard when I hear their soft “chip” call coming from the tree.  The video below includes a soundtrack with this call, courtesy of the xeno-canto website.

Various Dark-eyed Juncos.  Calls courtesy Xeno-Canto.

Below you can see juncos feeding on niger seed on top of a stepladder…

Juncos feeding on niger seed.

Below is a video of juncos feeding on small sunflower heads…

Juncos feeding on sunflowers.


Posted by Bob Lefebvre

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