Juncos flock to feeding station

Sign of spring when they’re not around

Staff photo by Fritz Busch Dark-eyed Juncos, commonly called snowbirds, gather around Ricky Neidecker’s winter bird feeding station at 211 S. Valley St. April 15. Neidecker said the birds eat bird seed. Finely cracked corn or millet seed is also popular, according to wild-bird-watching.com.

NEW ULM — Dozens of dark-eyed Juncos dotted Ricky Neidecker’s back yard bird feeding station April 15.

Commonly called the snowbird because of its appearance at winter bird feeding stations, the birds belong to the sparrow family.

Most of these birds are usually gone from bird feeders east of the Rockies by mid-March, a sign that spring has come. But that isn’t happening yet this year.

Bird enthusiast Ricky Neidecker feeds the birds bird seed plus potato peelings and chopped cabbage.

“They’re migrating. There are dozens of them around at times. Sometimes they scatter, but wind up coming back,” Neidecker said. “They eat just about anything. Sometimes a robin joins them, but they like beef tallow I put outside.”

Juncos feed mostly on the ground, eating weed and grass seeds in the wild. In summer, they feed mainly on insects, according to wild-bird-watching.com/

The website recommends scattering finely cracked corn or millet seed on a tray feeder to keep the seed fresh.

Male juncos winter farther north than females. It is believed they do this in order to get back to breeding ground to claim territory. Females do not claim territory, so they can winter farther south.

The bird’s call includes tick sounds and very high-pitched tinkling chips. It is considered by bird language practitioners as an excellent bird to study for learning “bird language.”

They breed in North American forests from Alaska to Newfoundland and south to the Appalachian Mountains, wintering in most of the United States.

Neidecker puts out beef tallow in a window-high net next to his house to feed woodpeckers.