Feeding Juncos

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Dark-eyed juncos are bold, perky sparrows with dark plumage and pale bills, and they're popular winter bird feeder guests, though they can visit throughout the year. But how can you lure these little "snowbirds" to your feeders when the snow is falling?

 

What to Feed Juncos

Like all sparrows, juncos are seed-eating birds. They prefer white proso millet seed, but will also eat cracked corn, hulled sunflower seeds or even bread crumbs. Offering several of these foods at your feeders will entice juncos, and the same foods are also popular with other winter visitors, such as finches, cardinals and other sparrows. To feed all these birds at once, opt for a good quality mixed birdseed or mix your own from their favorite foods.

 

How to Feed Juncos

Juncos are ground-feeding birds that prefer to forage in sheltered areas such as under bushes or in shrubbery. They will often pick through leaf litter to seek out morsels, and if you leave some leaf litter under your shrubs for winter insulation and composting, these birds will appreciate the banquet. If you have seed-bearing flowers as part of your landscaping, such as coneflowers, that natural food source will help attract juncos, or you can sprinkle a handful or two of seed under the bushes for extra nourishment.

To feed juncos at your feeders, select large tray or platform feeders that have room for a sizeable flock of birds to enjoy together. A large hopper feeder with a wide tray will work well and keep the seed in the hopper safe from snow and ice, while still letting the birds feed easily. Sprinkling seed on a covered deck, beneath a deck, or beneath an outdoor table or chair will help provide more ground-feeding areas that are protected from deep snow. Once the snow already on the ground forms a crust, sprinkling some seed directly on the snow can attract juncos, but be sure to only offer as much seed as the birds can comfortably eat in a day or two so leftovers will not be buried under new snowfall.

 

With the right seed and the right feeding space, you'll soon have a flock of dark-eyed juncos to keep you company on winter days!


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