Weedeaters and Feeder Wars

Juncos eating weed seeds and the uneasy truce between juncos and mourning doves at the feeder.

One advantage of having a lot of weeds in your garden is that it saves a lot on bird food, assuming you want to attract birds.  Here are a couple of juncos in our garden, feasting on the seeds (if you remember a similar scene from last week, it was sparrows then).

Juncos feeding on weed seeds
Juncos feeding on weed seeds

There is a definite pecking order at the feeder, but it is not what mathematicians call transitive (e.g. if x is bigger than y and y bigger than z you know that x is bigger than z).  Just because a mourning dove chases a blue jay away and a blue jay chases a junco, it does not mean that mourning doves get the better of juncos.

Although this incoming mourning dove scared away the junco when it surprised it, the junco came right back and scared the dove.  In the end, they settled down to feed together:

Incoming dove
Incoming dove 1
Incoming dove 2
Incoming dove 2
Incoming junco
Incoming junco

Notice the white feathers on either side of the junco’s tail.  They are hidden when the junco is on the ground but flare brightly on take-off and landing.  Since the juncos usually travel in flocks of a dozen or so, these are presumably warning signals that alert the others that the first one has seen some reason to take off in a hurry.

Junco evil eye
Junco evil eye

In the picture above, the junco is sizing up the dove.  A few seconds later it joined the dove in feeding – truce declared.

 

 

 

Author: Eric Lawton

Eric is a natural philosopher living in rural Ontario

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