While living most of the year in forested portions of Canada and at higher elevations, they migrate over to become our winter residents. This winter time appearance has given them another common name: Snowbirds.
|An aptly named Snowbird.
|A Junco and White-throated Sparrow feed together.
Some dark-eyed juncos do not migrate at all, including some in the Appalachian mountains. These year-round resident birds, like many non-migratory birds, have shorter wings than the ones who fly so far away for the winter. Of those who do migrate, males tend to stay farther North, and the same individuals tend to go to the same wintering grounds each year.
Juncos feed in typical sparrow fashion: hopping along, pecking and scratching for food. They're mostly ground feeders, with 75% of their year-round diet made up of seeds. They're not too picky about the seed types, eating chickweed, sorrel, and lambs-quarters for example. At bird feeders, they usually go for the spilled seed on the ground, preferring millet over larger sunflower. They eat most of their insect food during the breeding season. In fact, like many other primarily seed-eating birds, they feed their own young almost exclusively an insect diet. Interestingly, the insect food at first when given to their young tends to be regurgitated prey.
|Another Dark-eyed Junco, showing some of the variability typical of juncos.
I enjoy the antics of these snowbirds. The flocks are very active and noticeable while they're foraging. They add a lot of liveliness to what can sometimes be a very drab landscape in winter.