The dark-eyed junco, commonly referred to as the snowbird, is one of my favorite winter visitors. Like too many other birds, however, I do not see it as often as I did in the past. In fact, I am ashamed to say some winters I do not see it at all. I find this remarkable as data collected in Project Feeder Watch suggest the junco is seen around bird feeders more often (80%) than any other bird.
In spite of the fact that I do everything I can to attract this visitor from the far north, most bypass my yard. Knowing that the small sparrow-like birds prefer millet seeds over sunflower seeds, I spread white millet on the ground beneath my feeders This is done because the bird spends 65% of its time on the ground and seems to prefer eating there over dining in elevated feeders.
I also maintain two birdbaths that offer it easily accessible places to drink and bath.
My yard is also blessed with several thick trees and shrubs that provide much-needed cover on cold winter nights.
Recent studies have begun to unravel some of the secrets surrounding dark-eyed juncos. For example, we now know that each fall adult females migrate before immature females and males. In addition, females have a tendency to travel farther south than males. This can result in more males being seen during the winter in the northern states than the Southeast. This is illustrated by the fact that during one study documented 72% of the juncos seen in Alabama were female.
I would like to know if the same holds true in my yard. With that in mind, this winter I will be paying close attention to the sexes of the juncos that visit my backyard.
Have you noticed whether females out number males in your yard?