The end of summer is usually a bummer time for me, but the emergence of fall does bring a reliable and fun visitor to my bird feeders, Dark-Eyed Juncos.
Juncos (a type of Sparrow) are one of the most abundant winter feeder birds in North America. They are often referred to as “snowbirds” as they seem to appear must abundantly before or after a snowfall. Juncos spend the spring and summer primarily in forested areas in Canada for the breeding season. They return south to their range in the United States in the fall. I typically start seeing them in Minnesota in late September or October.
Juncos are common visitors to homes throughout suburban neighborhoods. According to the Cornell Bird Lab, they’re one of the most prevalent backyard birds in North America with a count of 630 million individuals. With that, you’ll very likely have success drawing in this bird with a few quick steps. You just need to have their favorite foods on hand and know how they like to eat. Everything else is a bonus.
Buy Bird Seed that Juncos Love – Sunflower Seed and Millet
My top two picks for bird seed that Juncos enjoy are white proso millet and sunflower chips. If you have sunflower seed at your feeder, you’ll want to go for chips versus the standard shelled variety. Juncos don’t have large beaks to break open shells. White Millet is an attractive seed to have in a feeder by itself or mixed in with other blends, it will also be loved by Cardinals, Mourning Doves, Sparrows, Indigo Bunting, and Red-Winged Blackbirds.
Cracked corn is also appealing to Juncos, but I steer away from it. I haven’t had much luck with birds enjoying cracked corn, minus Starlings and House Sparrows.
You’re Going to Want a Ground Feeder for Juncos
Juncos are ground feeders and prefer to forage for their food. They will rarely perch or fly up to a bird feeder to get seed. They much prefer to eat leftovers kicked off feeders or from a tray or ground feeder.
It’s worth the investment to buy yourself a ground feeder. In my experience, letting seeds fly about and on the ground is asking for rodents to set up shop at your bird feeders. For Juncos, invest in a ground feeder that’s as close to the ground as possible. Here are a couple of Junco-friendly bird feeders I like:
Looking for a cheap at-home option? Retire an old baking sheet or tray by filling it up with bird seed and placing it on the ground outside! You can also find cheap serving trays that will do the trick at your local dollar store.
Have Conifer Trees Nearby
Speaking from personal experience, Juncos love the shelter provided by conifer trees and will often congregate there before fluttering over to your feeders. I have a couple of pine trees near my apartment (and bird feeders). Juncos – and many other bird species – love it! Anytime you give birds natural spaces with shelter, it’s a big win for you and your yard.
Provide Water For Thirsty Juncos
All birds need water – this is a universal tip to get more of them visiting you. Since Juncos are winter visitors, a heated bird bath is especially welcome when it’s cold out and open water is hard to come by.
Remember, Juncos want to stay close to or on the ground, so a ground bird bath basin is a fantastic choice:
Keep Your Feeding Station Safe
With Juncos congregating on the ground, it’s imperative to keep your yard as safe as possible. Keep your feeding station clean by raking and sweeping away excess bird seed. If you have pet cats, do all of your birds a favor and keep them indoors.
Looking for more content on Juncos? I recommend you check out this video from Lesley the Bird Nerd. Her content is fantastic.
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