We’ve been seeing lots of these beautiful little Dark-eyed Juncos in our yard lately. They spend the summer months in mountain forests, but come down to the valley to visit backyards during the winter. Their diet can consist of a 50/50 mix of seeds and insects in the summer, but they’re mostly seed eaters in the winter. While they do come to feeders, like other sparrows, they prefer to feed on either platforms or the ground underneath feeders. They’re a welcome addition to our backyard bird community.
The Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) is a species of the juncos, a genus of small grayish American sparrows. This bird is common across much of temperate North America and in summer ranges far into the Arctic. It is a very variable species, much like the related Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca), and its systematics are still not completely untangled.
Adults generally have gray heads, necks, and breasts, gray or brown backs and wings, and a white belly, but show a confusing amount of variation in plumage details. The white outer tail feathers flash distinctively in flight and while hopping on the ground. The bill is usually pale pinkish.