Fun Facts about Juncos (and How to Attract Them!)

Wednesday, September 13, 2023
Summer is quickly fading away, which means so long to our warm weather birds - and hello to everyone's favourite little "snowbird", Dark-eyed Juncos! Here are some fun facts to get you geared up and ready for the their upcoming arrival.

Dark-eyed Junco feeding on Choice Plus Blend

Familiar faces
The Dark-eyed Junco is one of the most common birds in North America, ranging from Alaska to Mexico, and from California to New York. With a recent estimate placing their population at approximately 630 million individuals, it's no wonder they are one of the most recognized (and loved) backyard bird species.

Affectionately nicknamed
Dark-eyed Juncos are migratory sparrows who have been affectionately nicknamed “Snowbirds”, due to the fact that many birdwatchers believe their return from their northern breeding grounds foretells the return of cold and snowy weather. Juncos often flock together in groups of 6 or more birds, and return to the same area each year. This means that if you've had juncos at your feeders last year, there's a good chance that you'll see some of the same birds this year. 

Cassiar Junco

Coats of many colours
They may be common, but their plumage is anything but! One of the most interesting things you may notice while watching juncos in your yard is the wide array of plumage colour between individuals. Through multi-year studies, researchers have found that there are actually 15 distinct variations of Dark-eyed Juncos, with the most prevalent in our area being "slate-coloured". Among slate-coloured juncos you will still see some variation in plumage, particularly between males and females. Males are overall grey to nearly black with a white belly, while females and juveniles range from light brown, to mottled brown and grey, to light grey, also with a white belly. Pictured is a Cassiar Junco: "The Dark-eyed Junco (Cassiar) is found in the Rocky Mountains. It is said to be a hybrid of the Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) and the Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon). It is not considered a sub-species or race of the Dark-eyed Junco." from

Night fliers
During migration periods, Dark-eyed Juncos (and many other species) travel by night. They don't have night vision goggles to help them, but instead use the constellations to aid in navigation. Often times during this nocturnal journey birds are attracted to our man-made lights, confusing them with stars, and collide with buildings. Juncos fly at low altitudes and are especially susceptible to collisions during these times. Window strike injuries are often fatal, but are largely preventable, and there are many successful methods you can practice to prevent window strikes at your home. These include proper feeder placement, keeping blinds down and partially closed, turning lights off at night, and installing window decals such as Feather Friendly Window Markers or WindowAlert Decals. Click here to learn more about preventing window collisions.

Dark-eyed Juncos feeding on Bug, Nut & Berry Cylinder from a Cylinder Feeder

Attracting Juncos to Your Yard
Dark-eyed Juncos are bouncy, and often plentiful feeder visitors, who become fast regulars in backyards when their needs are being met. Those needs include safety & shelter, food, and a consistent source of fresh water. 
  • Safety & Shelter
    Having a bird-friendly lawn means keeping it as safe and secure as possible for the. This means keeping cats indoors, and providing lots of shelter in the form of native plants of all heights (low to high grasses, shrubs, mature trees) whenever possible. Shelter can also be provided by creating brush piles with twigs, branches, rocks, and more. Having multiple sheltered areas gives the birds options for perching and keeping watch for any predators lurking nearby. It also gives them areas to keep out of inclement weather such as snow storms or freezing rain. 
  • Foods & Feeders
    Lucky for us, juncos are not super finicky eaters, and enjoy a wide variety of foods including white millet, cracked corn, mealworms, WBU No-Mess LM, WBU Deluxe Blend, Bark Butter and Bark Butter Bits, and a variety of WBU Seed Cylinders. Juncos are typically ground feeders, but will happily perch at feeders for their favourite foods. Feeders recommended for juncos include ground trays, fly-thru feeders, hopper style feeders, and hanging tray feeders. Bark Butter is a favourite of theirs, and can be spread low on tree trunks or rocks for them to nibble on. You can also attract juncos and other seed-eating species to your yard by growing native plants such as chickweed, ragweed, and coneflowers. While the urge to rake your lawn may be strong this time of year, the leaf litter in your yard often contains fallen seeds that are a good source of food for birds and other wildlife.
  • Water
    Providing a source of fresh, open water is always a great way to help attract a cornucopia of bird species to your yard, but can be tricky in winter months - because, you know, ice. You can do so by installing a heated birdbath or bath heater to an existing bath. Adding a heated birdbath in your yard is the best way to ensure the birds return again and again. Converting snow to liquid to keep hydrated takes a lot of energy, so most bird species naturally prefer to drink water for hydration rather than use energy that could be utilized for maintaining body heat instead. 

Happy trails!
- Shayna

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