Everything you need to know about juncos in the Berkshires – Berkshire Eagle


Juncos primarily feed on grain and seed, and especially like to gather wild seeds found along forest edges and in flower gardens. 
A dark-eyed junco is arguing with a female house finch. Traditionally, juncos move in small flocks.  

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Thom Smith, NatureWatch columnist.
Juncos primarily feed on grain and seed, and especially like to gather wild seeds found along forest edges and in flower gardens. 
Juncos are found in our yards this season — often with no effort.
For instance, while visiting our daughter and her family on Christmas Day, looking out at their front yard there were a dozen juncos taking turns wandering in and out of the family’s combination of wildflower and flower garden that takes up most of the front yard. They were delighted with the variety of leftover flower heads and their seeds.
Juncos move throughout much of the U.S. in these small flocks — one of their many wonders — visiting edges of woods, or such flower gardens. This activity can encourage weeds to grow.
These dark-eyed juncos (also known as slate-colored juncos or Junco hyemalis) are very common migrants. And in the Berkshires, they are regular breeders — especially in the higher elevations — in spruce and fir and northern hardwood forests. Where my wife and I live, we can see Mount Greylock, and we can’t help thinking when these snowbirds arrive (with or without snow in our yard) that they come from the highest mountain in Massachusetts.
A dark-eyed junco is arguing with a female house finch. Traditionally, juncos move in small flocks.  
A reader recently asked what to feed “these junco birds.” I commented that I have no idea what they gather in our very small vegetable garden; they enjoy gathering what is there though, as well as in the flower garden. They do delight in gathering spilled safflower and black-oil sunflower seed. And for the first time, I observed one or two feeding at the actual hanging feeders. Also for the first time, I caught one feeding suet!
They primarily feed on grain and seed, as mentioned above, and though I have read that they eat white proso millet, I rarely give it to them. If one wants to gather wild seeds for these birds, a few that would work include the seeds of winter hemlocks, grasses, small grains and weed seeds, especially ragweed, smartweed, pigweed, lambs-quarters, chickweed, vetch, sorrels and grab grasses.
Apparently, the first juncos I saw at Pleasant Valley Sanctuary (according to my Life List) was on April 12, 1958.
Email Thom Smith at Naturewatch41@gmail.com or write him care of The Berkshire Eagle, 75 South Church St., Pittsfield, MA 01201.
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