That black and white, sparrow-sized bird you see under your bird feeder in the winter is probably a Dark-eyed Junco. He’s a ground feeding bird and he scratches the snow for seeds tossed down from above. Snow is not a hardship for him…he prefers it. In spring when temperatures begin to warm up, he will leave middle-latitude Wisconsin for a cooler Alaska or Canada.
Highly variable in pattern and color, there are several different Dark-eyed Juncos including ‘pink-sided’, ‘white-winged’ and ‘Oregon’. The common one to Wisconsin has a white breast, slate gray head with a pinkish bill and a dark eye.
In Arizona I found this pink-sided, Dark-Eyed Junco scratching in the desert.
At seventy-five hundred feet of elevation on Mt. Lemmon, Arizona, I found this yellow-eyed, Dark-eyed Junco at home in the snow. Dark-eyed Juncos are year-round residents at cooler elevations.
This one preened and cleaned in a dogwood bush until he noticed me watching him, then he froze and remained that way for a time-stamped twenty-minutes.
All the while he keep one yellow eye fixed on me.
Often traveling in the company of other birds such as finches, doves, cardinals, nuthatches and chickadees, Dark-eyed Juncos are easy to attract. Lucky for the Dark-eyed Juncos a lot of millet seed ends up on the ground, discarded by the pickier eaters overhead. This suits the Dark-eyed Junco just perfectly.
For a few cents worth of millet you might get a kitchen window bird show all day long. They won’t be here for long though. Spring will come again.