A common feeder bird, Dark-eyed Juncos come with the first frosts in southern Wisconsin.
The bird's Latin name (Junco hyealis) means “of the winter.” Juncos arrive for the winter in mid-September and head north in March-May. It could be discouraging that Juncos, the bird “of the winter,” stay in Wisconsin for seven months. We've been seeing plenty of Juncos, but the windy, sunny, and cool fall days have a permanence of their own. Here at Faville Grove, winter is a long way off. We are busy collecting seed for our fall planting, and we hold volunteer work parties every Wednesday and Saturday 9:30 am-noon and 1:30-4:00 pm (Saturdays only).
Seed is a vital component of the junco's diet, up to 75% by some accounts. Skilled at finding feeders and hopping around lawns for food, juncos keep a steady diet throughout winter. Our restored prairies contain abundant and diverse seed sources for migrating birds and recent winter residents.
Juncos can reside year-round in northern Wisconsin. Throughout North America, year-round junco residents have, on average, shorter wings. Longer wings offer an advantage flying long distances, which is why migrants will often have longer wings.
Look for Dark-eyed juncos at feeders or in woodlots, hopping along the ground and tipping their white tail feathers. If you're not yet in the mood for winter, you'd do well to avoid the Dark-eyed Junco, though it might be difficult to miss one of North America's most common birds.
By Drew Harry, Faville Grove Land Steward
Photo by Eric Belgin, Flickr Creative Commons