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November 13, 2017

Sometime in the next week or so, I'm going to have to call the Geek Squad.

Every time I try to get on Play Memories (Sony's program for the camera)., I get a pop-up that says 'Browser Has Stopped Working'.

I lack the skills and the time to tackle this issue, myself.

Again, pictures are already in my server's program.

Okay, let's get going.

Welcome new readers.

(Fruits of Highbush Cranberry, a native shrub.)

The weather this past week, cold, rainy, and a bit of snow.

Temperatures have been much below normal for this time of year.

Northern Michigan received its first few inches, and parts of the upper peninsula received more than a foot of the white stuff.

Still, living in the northern ranges, it isn't a total surprise.

It does take some time to adjust to it all.

The Sunsets are now well before 5:20 PM, here in SW. Michigan.

Most of the yard work is done (finally).

If I can't get at the rest, it will hold over till spring.

Remember to leave some leaf litter (mulched).

Leaf litter helps to insulate plants.

Leaf litter is a vital place for certain insects to hibernate.

Insects, larvae and insect eggs that offer a vital food source for many birds during the winter and early spring.

Leaf litter also provides nesting material for spring birds and slowly decays into a wonderful food for your plants.

Not to mention keeping moisture in and weeds down.

Have you enjoyed fall migration so far?

(Sweet gum tree from 2015, they actually looked pretty good this year.)

With shorter days and cooler nights the feeders are busy most of the day.

I enjoy most aspects of migration.

I miss the hummingbirds when they leave for the next several months.

I enjoy migrations on the most part.

Besides the flocks of birds, there are many visitors that stop by for a visit.

White-crowned sparrows, White-throated sparrows, Kinglets, and more.

Still others with winter over.

Trees sparrows come down from Northern Canada.

Dark-eyed juncos spend the winter.

On irruptive years we get Common-redpolls too.

Not to mention the occasional Snowy owl.

These are some of the blessings of migration.

For you, winter guests may include snow buntings, or Evening grosbeeks.

Birds remember where the groceries are from one year to the next and will return if you keep them supplied.

Juncos are a backyard favorite this time of year.

Often called snowbirds because most of us in the lower 48 states only see them during fall and winter.

Cornell's feeder watch records more than 80% of reports showing juncos.

More than any other species of bird.

Experts figure Juncos to number some where around 280 million strong.

Today's topic is on the Dark-eyed-junco.



(Junco hyemalis)

(Male Junco.)

Juncos are a widespread and common small member of the sparrow family.

The Dark-eyed Junco is most familiar as a winter visitor to bird feeders and backyards.

It comes in several distinctly different looking forms, but

all are readily identified as "Juncos" by their plain patterning, dark hood, and white outer tail feathers.

Juncos are the "snowbirds" of the middle latitudes.

In the eastern United States, they appear in all

but the most northern states only in the winter, and then retreat each spring.

Some juncos in the Mountains remain there all year round, breeding at the higher elevations.

The Dark-eyed junco includes five forms that were once considered separate species.

Slate-colored Junco is the grayest, found from Alaska to Texas and eastward. Yes, even in my Michigan.

Oregon Junco is boldly marked blackish and brown, with a distinct dark hood, and is found in the western half of the continent.

Gray-headed Junco has a brown back and gray sides and lives in the central Rocky Mountains.

White-winged Junco is all gray with white wingbars, and breeds only near the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Guadalupe Junco of Baja California is dull and brownish.

Two other forms may be distinguishable:

Pink-sided Junco, a pale version of the Oregon junco, living in the northern Rocky Mountains.

Red-backed Junco, a gray-headed junco with a dark upper bill, found in mountains near the Mexican border.

(Oregon Junco.)

Male and females are similar in markings, the only difference is the female is a bit lighter in color.

Beeding grounds are Alaska, Most of Canada, the extreme northern states,down the mountains to California and Northern Georgia.

Juncos winter from southern Canada to Northern Mexico.

Now that is a huge range.

They spend the entire winter in flocks averaging in size from six to thirty or more birds.

Each flock has a dominance hierarchy with mature males at the top, then juvenile males, mature females and young females at the bottom.

You can often observe individuals challenging the status of others with aggressive displays of lunges and tail flicking.

I've mentioned before how birds often have a hierarchy, now is your chance to observe and find the boss of your backyard.

Males remain further North so they can take advantage of prime breeding grounds.

Juvenile males remain further North.

Males will return to the same breeding ground year after year, this is why most stay further north.

About 70% of the Juncos in the South are females as they know how to take advantage of favorable conditions.

We can see here, how or why males and females think, or how hormones dictate migration.

Feeding Habits:

(Female Junco.)

Like most sparrows, Juncos are ground feeders.

You will often see them hopping back and forth or scratching for food.

Backyard feeding favorites are millet, cracked corn, and the occasional sunflower seed.

Not to mention flower and weed seeds they gleen.

On an annual basis, a Junco's diet is made up of approximately three parts seeds to one part insects.

During the nesting period, the percent of insects can increase up to 50 or 60 percent of their diet (protein).

Sometimes you will see them riding a seed stalk to the ground and then feeding, ( I smile when I see this).

Kinda makes you want to keep a few weeds around.

A Few Tidbits:

Juncos have over 30 percent more feathers (by weight) in the winter than they do in summer.

They prefer to roost in evergreens at night, but will also use tall grasses and brush piles.

They return to the same roost location repeatedly and will share it with other flock mates, but they do not huddle together.

Nests are built on the ground using rootlets, dried leaves, moss and lined with fine grass.

Because nests are on the ground, chipmunks, kangaroo mice and other rodents are main predators of eggs and new hatchlings.

An average clutch is 3 to 5 eggs and she may have as many as 2 clutches a season.

Eggs incubate in 11 to 13 days and young fledge on average, 12 to 14 days.

Enjoy all of you birds, especially the seasonal visitors.

Are your birdbaths ready for winter?

Are feeders cleaned and filled?

Remember, days are shorter that means less time to get the energy required to survive longer, cooder nights.

Read up on bird feed and Feeding birds.

Click on,

Millet, Corn, and, Sunflower Seeds.

These food sources are favorites of Dark-eyed juncos, as they scratch around looking for food.

I like to toss some under my shrubs this time of year.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

God Bless.

“Purity of soul cannot be lost without consent.”

St. Augustine(354 - 430)

Once lost, only God can renew and purify our heart, spirit, and soul.

"Create in me a clean heart, O God,

And renew a steadfast spirit within me".

Psalm 51:10

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb.

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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