The Junco of the Pacific Northwest
The junco has several regional variations all very distinct looking. All juncos share the same general features including a dark to black hood, white outer tail feathers which flash as they fly, a white belly, dark eyes, and pink legs and beaks. They are also approximately 13 to 15 cm in length and weigh around 18 to 30 g. Juncos of different sexes are similar but females are generally pale and browner in comparison to the males.
Juncos usually place their nests on depressions found in the ground hidden by a bush, or are placed against a lower branch of a tree, or on tufts of grassy vegetation. The nests are cup shaped and are made of grass, twig, bark, and other plant materials, and are lined with fine grass and animal hair. The nests usually have an outer diameter of about 10 cm. The female junco lays up to 5 eggs that are grey or pale bluish white in color. The eggs usually have blotches that come in various shades of brown, purple, and gray. Juncos raise 1 to 2 broods each breeding season.
Juncos pair at the beginning of breeding season. They stay faithful to their selected partner and defend their mutual territory together till the end of the breeding season.
Juncos forage on the ground for their food. Their diet consists mostly of insects, seeds, and weeds. Since juncos like to eat seeds they are easily attracted to bird feeders especially those with cracked corn and sunflower seeds.
Juncos are also called snowbirds because they suddenly appear during winter in areas where winter feeding stations can be found. In fact juncos are the most common birds to be found in bird feeders during winter in the entire North America. On Vancouver Island, our winter bird feeders are usually full of juncos. I look forward to seeing the juncos return to our feeders in late September and stay all winter. Sometimes I can have them in the hundreds at my feeders and watching them literally covering the snow is awesome. They keep my yard active and busy.