Dark-eyed Junco Behavior and Vocalization
You can learn a great deal about a bird once you begin watching their behaviors. There is no better time to start observing these behaviors than during the spring months when the birds are just starting establishing their territories. The Dark-eyed Junco or also known as the Slate-colored Junco (Junco hyemalis) is one of Allegany State Park’s early species that are just beginning to sing. Before we learning their song, here is a video for you to become better familiar with two of their calls.
The first “Social Call” is commonly heard by both the male and female during all times of the year. The second “Aggressive Call” is more of an aggressive vocalization between its fellow juncos and/or other species that might get too close to them. In all these clips, you will commonly hear the second “Aggressive Call” more than any other vocalization. There are many other vocalizations which I was not able to capture on video.
Once the Dark-eyed Junco is on their breeding territory, they will announce their song from the tallest tree on site. A few weeks later when the female finally arrives, the males will then become more aggressive in courting and following the female. This time of the year the local males are slightly aggressive but they will still announce their presents while the migrants are persistently trying to get a seed at the window feeder. Here is a video of this junco singing at the feeder while other birds are trying to steal a seed.
If a Junco would like to challenge another Junco; they raise their feathers, bends forward and spread its tail to show they are most dominant. When this happens the less dominant male will quickly flee away or the two will begin to fight. The courtship display is very similar and is used to attract the female (saying he is strong and you should build a nest in my territory). Here is a video showing the male Juncos doing the courtship display between and the female mostly ignoring him (saying not tonight honey) or she flies away with him chasing.
Typically the Dark-eyed Junco’s are found feeding on the ground but on occasion they will jump up to the feeder and try to help spread some seeds around (when there are no seeds on the ground). Naturally they will be found scratching the snow and/or leaves in search of seeds that have fallen on the ground. Even in the feeder the Junco’s can be seen scratching for seeds; although the numerous seeds can be found right in front of them. I like to think they are helping spread the seeds around so they all are not in one location. (see the following video).
I sure hope you learned something from the post today. Do note that those with dial-up might have a hard time downloading all these videos (don’t ask how long it took me to upload them). I hope this encourages everyone to spent more time “watching” and “studying” the behaviors of the birds that are around you.