Frisky Juncos

A large number of dark-eyed juncos winter on our Littleton, Colorado, farm, including members of the slate-gray, Oregon and gray-headed races.  Hanging out with house finches, black-capped chickadees, bushtits and, this year, lesser goldfinches, the juncos are relatively inconspicuous through most of the winter, feeding beneath shrubs and thickets.  At times they will join the other birds in our feeding area, searching for seed that has fallen (or was thrown) on the ground.

Over the past week, our visiting juncos have become highly conspicuous, the males singing from trees or chasing prospective mates, their outer white tail feathers flashing as they zig-zag across the clearings.  Highly territorial on their nesting grounds, the male juncos seem to be preparing for that duty, chasing robins, flickers and other much larger birds from their local winter haunts.

Most will leave by early April, heading for coniferous forests in the Rockies or Canada.  Until then, I'll be entertained by their hormone-driven antics, wondering if their seasonal obsession will blind them to the raids of sharp-shinned hawks that regularly patrol our farm.