The Dark-eyed Juncos (also known as “snowbirds”) that show up as winter sets in throughout most of the eastern United States are known for being primarily ground feeders. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, when foraging, Dark-eyed Juncos hop (rather than walk) on the ground, pecking or scratching at the leaf litter, or flit very low in underbrush gleaning food from twigs and leaves. Typically, they are seen in small flocks underneath bird feeders eating the seeds that fall.
Juncos aren’t particularly adept at clinging to vertical surfaces, so it took me by surprise when I looked out the window and saw two juncos stuck to the side of a tree intent on getting to the suet feeder.
I’ve seen juncos getting suet when the feeder was hung close to a branch they could perch on, but I’ve never seen them clinging to a tree trunk. I guess when it’s cold and the birds are hungry enough, the proverbial rules go out the window and good old ingenuity kicks in.
After a few moments of clumsily moving around the trunk, their persistence paid off and they were able to get some suet before a brassy blue jay chased them off.
Birds and other wild creatures have strong survival instincts and those instincts often push them to adapt to changing conditions, as in this case, to deviate from their normal foraging techniques to take advantage of a food source. That’s what “survival of the fittest” is all about.