My life is about living with nature – here you can live it with me!

Dark-eyed Junco Behavior and Vocalization

multiflora rose

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.

30 responses

  1. Jim

    Love the Junco videos Mon@rch! I watch them in my back yard, but you’ve given me some behavioral cues to look for next time I see them. Thanks!

    17 March 2007 at 10:59 pm

  2. How cool! Thanks, Mon@rch, for doing this post.
    Since juncos are winter birds for us, I never get to hear what they sound like.
    And aren’t they the cheeky little buggers!!!!

    17 March 2007 at 11:14 pm

  3. @ Jim – thanks for visiting and so glad you found this helpful! Great seeing the Falcon Cam up and going! Can’t wait to see more of your wonderful shots of them!
    @ Susan – they are breeders here and always forget most people only think of them as snowbirds! It was wonderful on Friday they were vocal in my office window “ALL DAY”!! People kept asking if the sounds were coming from my computer or from my window!

    17 March 2007 at 11:25 pm

  4. Rick

    wonderful job with this post. I love all of the sounds the birds are singing. can’t wait to see what you do with this blog next.

    17 March 2007 at 11:28 pm

  5. Aya

    This is wonderful!! Thanks so much. They are also snowbirds here…yesterday in the snowstorm they were swarming all over the yard, apparently loving the blizzard!

    17 March 2007 at 11:49 pm

  6. Great photo!
    Quick question–Is it ok if I link to your Flikr photostream photos and use them in my blog? They are awesome, but I don’t want to take anything you aren’t giving 🙂

    Also, what kind of microphone do you use? or is it part of the camera? I really want to record some of the frog calls once the peepers get going out here.

    18 March 2007 at 8:53 am

  7. Wow, thanks for the lesson on Dark-Eyed Juncos! There’s quite a lot going on out there! It’s amazing once you can pick apart what is actually going on, they’re great little multi-processors, aren’t they? Imagine trying to eat, show everyone you’re the big man, eat, keep the other “big” men away, eat, getting the girl, eat, keeping the other types of birds away, eat, mate, eat, etc. etc. all in a short period of time.
    Great informational posts and great videos Mon@rch. Thanks for spending sooooo much time doing this. I hope you’re able to get high speed soon! I’m going back for another listen or two or three… thanks!

    18 March 2007 at 9:56 am

  8. Very cool, Mon@rch! Your DEJUs look so different from mine . . . Oregon variety . . . but they seem to act the same. I love the little Juncos. They are such fun, sweet birds!

    18 March 2007 at 11:48 am

  9. @ Rick – tell me about it, but should be fun to continue to do post like this! Thanks!
    @ Aya – they do enjoy the snow but I wish I was a snow bird (would love to go down to Florida for winter) LOL
    @ Bug Girl – Lets talk via Email (will send you an email tonight) regarding my flickr pictures! Regarding my microphone, here I am using the camera’s mic and my talking is using the cheap one that come with my computer. But, I do have a more expensive parabolic microphone that I use but isn’t digital (and hard to transfer to digital). But, does a great job recording!
    @ Naturewoman – there is great things going on, thanks! Thanks and trust me, I only wish I had the option of high-speed but don’t want to put the money into a satellite dish ($600 startup), ugg!
    @ Liz – thanks and glad you enjoyed watching them! I would love to see your species of Junco!

    18 March 2007 at 11:51 am

  10. Great videos!

    18 March 2007 at 12:27 pm

  11. Thanks Laura!

    18 March 2007 at 7:18 pm

  12. Linda O'Brien

    Tom – Once again you prove what a cool, bird-lovin’ dude you are! Ever the teacher. There is an amazing world of wonder out there. Thanks for opening our eyes to the finer details.

    18 March 2007 at 8:23 pm

  13. Tom – I love this! Your videos were great. The in depth information about the juncos was interesting. Thank you so much!

    p.s. I couldn’t get the courtship video to work, all the others worked without a problem.

    18 March 2007 at 8:32 pm

  14. Thanks Linda! We all teach people about birds in different ways! I enjoy the up close and personal approach (You going to band birds with me again, I have my schedule up for both the Park and Zaepfel!!)! Thanks for always visiting!

    Barb – thanks and ya, not sure about that video!! Blip.tv converts it over to a different format! Not sure why they have not converted it yet! But, does download in the windows format! Maybe I should try downloading it again!

    18 March 2007 at 8:34 pm

  15. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed watching the junco, chickadee bird action on those feeders – up close and personal. This was a wonderful lesson, Tom. Just great!

    18 March 2007 at 9:45 pm

  16. Ok, I just redownloaded the video and looks like blip.tv converted this one without any problems.

    @ Mary – Thanks and soo glad that you enjoyed viewing these clips! You should have seen all 10 minutes that I have captured.

    18 March 2007 at 10:31 pm

  17. Didi

    Best blog EVER!
    I finally get to see the Juncos and hear their sound.. thanks!
    plus, as a bonus.. the pronunciation of Chickadee.. which BTW I was doing it right 🙂
    Good job!

    18 March 2007 at 11:14 pm

  18. D – thanks!! I have some good clips of tree sparrows also that I would like to do something similar. Well, maybe not as in-depth! I learned the pronunciation from the birds chick-a-deee deee deee!! LOL!

    18 March 2007 at 11:20 pm

  19. COOLCOOLCOOL! Juncos are winter birds here and it seems that just when they start all their vocalizations, they leave for spring. I learned lots with this post. Thanks for putting all the work into it and sharing your knowledge with us.

    19 March 2007 at 10:53 am

  20. I really love Juncos, especially this time of year. I have to ask, do you think that they sometimes sound like one of those old Atari shooting games? They are so cute and fun to watch, and your photos rock!

    19 March 2007 at 1:23 pm

  21. Very cool article/post. More than I ever thought I would know about juncos. I’ve always enjoyed watching them in the winter, but never really get to see much of their breeding/courting because they usually leave before that happens. In fact, I can’t remember them being around this long before this year…

    19 March 2007 at 1:49 pm

  22. NatureShutterbug

    This is a really wonderful page. Thanks for taking the time to make the various videos.

    19 March 2007 at 8:16 pm

  23. @ Lynne – Thanks for visiting and glad you learned something! That always makes me feel good!
    @ Birdfreak – thanks for visiting! They do sound like the old Atari ! I guess they design jets from bugs, why not design video games from birds.
    @ Marty – thanks and it was more the birds teaching us by visiting my feeder! You still have them around? Must be the weather!
    @ NatureShutterbug – thanks and was fun (except the downloading) to make the videos! Cat’s enjoyed it also! Can’t wait for your blog to get up and going!

    19 March 2007 at 8:45 pm

  24. I really enjoyed the videos and the explanation of the behaviors. Are they done only when they reach their mating grounds? They are only winter visitors here (in Alabama). I haven’t noticed the displays but may have just not been paying enough attention.

    The most frequent vocalization I notice here is that “boing boing boing” sounding call.

    19 March 2007 at 8:55 pm

  25. Rurality – thanks for visiting and glad you enjoyed the videos! I have two different Junco’s banded that are at my feeder and have not caught them yet! They easily would help me understand if they are migrants or if they are my local birds! I would assume currently I have both migrants and locals here. But hard to say without checking out the little bands on their legs. I bet you have other birds singing right now! Learning behaviors happen with all birds, not just junco’s!

    19 March 2007 at 10:15 pm

  26. I could see the third video no problem. Thanks for the education.

    21 March 2007 at 8:55 pm

  27. Great and glad you returned!

    21 March 2007 at 9:06 pm

  28. ninehtotoo5

    The videos are great, and the still photo at the beginning of the article is outstanding.

    23 March 2007 at 5:25 pm

  29. Thanks 9h225!! I have others to upload once I get some time!

    25 March 2007 at 11:24 pm

  30. Carol

    Those video’s are the best ways to learn, to actually see their movements and hear their sounds up close and personal. I love what you did! I live in eastern NY, in Albany. A small flock came through my yard yesterday, scratching in the leaves and underbrush. It was because of that behavior, and the flash of white on their tail feathers when they flew, that helped me identify what they were. I don’t think I’ve never seen them in my yard before… The only thing I did that’s different is I put thistle in my birdfeeder for the first time and the wind blew it around my yard. Could it be that they were just passing through on their migration North? Or do they stay in this area and breed here? Thanks again for you blog. It’s a real treat!

    9 April 2007 at 6:08 pm

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