The first of the dark-eyed juncos have begun to appear in Passaic. According to allaboutbirds.com, their breeding territory is mostly in Canada and they spend their winters throughout most of the US. I’ve seen a group in our backyard and also in Memorial Park on two occasions to date. Twice this fall I’ve seen them in the early morning twilight and it is remarkable that they can see well enough to find food in that dim light.
Juncos are common in Passaic in the colder months. They are ground feeders and so they rely on the other birds that visit our feeder to disperse some seeds on the ground. Being ground feeders also makes them vulnerable to the local feral cat population. I have discovered a wing or a clump of feathers that could well have been from a junco on more than one occasion.
I’ve puzzled occasionally over how to describe their appearance. They swarm like bees or locusts, but I think a better analogy is that they act like a flashmob. One moment there are no birds around at all, and within a few seconds up to a dozen birds will descend on a single location, pick at whatever they can find in the ground, and then move on just as quickly.
On a somewhat related note, it is disappointing to have to observe that our bird feeders have been up for almost a full week and there have been no signs of activity. In recent years I barely got them up and filled before the bird arrived in number. Granted, the first arrivals were almost all sparrows, but it wasn’t long after that that the various finches stopped by as well. Could it be that the birds have been spooked by the mother and three kittens who spend so much time in our yard?