Thursday, January 7, 2010

Clever Junco!

Thursday, January 7, 2010
Male dark-eyed junco eating sunflower bits on the hopper feeder.

When the weather gets tough, it's fascinating to see how birds will change their behavior to adapt. Conventional wisdom says that juncos are ground-feeding birds that prefer to scratch through whatever is covering the ground for their food. Or they may mount a weed stalk to get at the seed heads near the top. Normally at feeding stations, they are on the ground below the feeders, scratching for mixed seeds such as millet, cracked corn, or sunflower bits.

With our recent snows and ongoing low temperatures, the bird feeders are a blur of activity. When I looked out the other day, I did a double take. There was a junco, perched on a vertical log feeder, pecking at bits of suet dough we had packed into the drilled holes. The suet log, hanging nearly six feet off the ground, is normally visited by woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees and titmice, starlings, and Carolina wrens. Seeing the junco using it, despite the lack of strong clinging feet, was a new one.

We'd seen the juncos at the hopper feeders (top image) picking out sunflower bits. And we knew the juncos loved the suet dough we put out on the deck railing, so I guess his should not come as a huge surprise. After all, the birds don't read the books describing their behavior. They're just trying to survive until tomorrow.

The male dark-eyed junco on the suet log.


On January 8, 2010 at 7:16 AM Wanderin' Weeta said...

I have a swinging, spinning chickadee feeder, about 6 feet off the ground, and full of sunflower seeds. Most of my juncos peck at the ground underneath the tree where the chickadees take the seeds to crack them.

One, however, tries to get on the feeder. Most of the time, he falls off, but he keeps trying again. Every so often, he manages to grab one seed; enough to keep him coming back.

On January 8, 2010 at 12:07 PM Anonymous said...

Since the temps have been below zero for some time now (in Omaha) my juncos have been clinging on the thistle socks and using the sunflower tubes. The only thing I haven't caught them on is the suet log.
Kim J

On January 8, 2010 at 6:37 PM lalapapawawa said...

It's funny that you mention them. I just identified juncos at my feeders the past 2 weeks. I think they are just here (metro-Atlanta) for a winter visit.
Now I know why they aren't eating from my tray feeders -- they aren't supposed to!

On January 9, 2010 at 11:29 AM Elizabeth said...

I was putting seed for the juncos on the ground, but then I found a mound of grey bird feathers. I think one of the neighborhood cats was taking advantage. So I'm only putting seed in the feeders. I'm seen them at the feeders, though. I'm glad that they adapt.

On January 9, 2010 at 11:58 AM NW Nature Nut said...

It seems that over the last two or three years I am seeing more and more juncos eating suet in my garden. I see them perch on the top of the cage and eat it and flutter and cling to the side. I noticed it a lot last year and even more this year. Maybe they are adapting? I use a quality suet with not seed and filler too. I spread seed on the ground for them and we are in mild NW Oregon. Hmm.

On January 13, 2010 at 3:34 PM Andrea said...

This one is common to me as I used to see this bird very often. I love the way it was flying from the ground. Yeah, the name itself best describes 'Clever Junco'. Nice pics!