About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Small gray bird with white belly

I just saw a Junko!!!

Male Dark-eyed Junco
I've been seeing juncos too! Dark-eyed Juncos are neat, flashy little sparrows that live in mid-Michigan from the fall, all through the winter. Adults generally have gray heads, necks, and breasts, gray or brown backs and wings, and a white belly, but can have a confusing amount of variation in plumage details. But the white outer tail feathers flash distinctively in flight and while hopping on the ground and the bill is usually pale pinkish. Males tend to have darker slate colored backs and the females have browner backs.

The juncos we see all winter in the Lansing area are typically males. Studies show winter junco flocks are 80 percent male in Michigan and 72 percent female in states further south. Males risk harsh winters in the northern states in order to be the first ones back to their upper Michigan and Canadian breeding grounds to stake out a territory in the spring.

Female Dark-eyed Junco via Wikimedia Commons
So as the weather changes we may wake up to a flock of females one day and males the next until the birds settle in for winter. Juncos migrate at night at very low altitudes in flocks up to 100 individuals. Other birds like fox and tree sparrows may accompany the juncos. Flock composition can change from day to day during migration. Juncos prefer to forage and roost in groups during the day and may depart en masse at night but do not stay together during flight.

Juncos, like many other members of the sparrow family, eat a variety of insects and seeds mainly on the ground. What seeds they prefer can differ across the country.

Sunflower seeds, millet, safflower, peanuts and peanut butter suet are some of the most popular foods that attract juncos to tray or ground bird feeders. You’ll also see the juncos scratching for grass seeds or insects in leaf litter and pine needles.

Related Articles:
Fun Facts About Juncos http://bit.ly/pgewJn
What birds like Safflower seed? http://bit.ly/puRjIr
Sparrows Native to mid-Michigan http://bit.ly/nURO99
Do the same birds show up at the same feeders year after year? http://bit.ly/GMaOYV

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