Winter residents: Juncos

Dark-eyed Junco Photo

Photo copyright Christopher L. Wood

Dark-eyed juncos (also called slate-colored juncos), like many migratory birds, fly south for the winter, but they don’t head for Florida or Central America. They breed and spend the summer in the Arctic and come here, to the temperate latitudes of North America, for the winter.

Juncos are sparrows with distinctive slate grey and white coloring, as if their bottom halves, including the undersides of their perky tails, were dipped in milk. They arrive in mid-fall and feed in my backyard all winter long. They are ground feeders, so they spend a lot of time sifting through the leaf litter; when the ground is covered with snow, they’re particularly easy to see as they move through the perennial stalks looking for food. They enjoy my woodland floor as well. Occasionally they join mixed species foraging flocks, but they most often seem to feed in small single-species groups.

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