AUTHOR’S NOTE: The photos show the sequence of the nesting from the start to almost the fledgling stage.
Nesting season is now upon us. The yards, gardens and areas around our residences have become home to many nesting species. Some species nest in the same area year after year, and in fact some ground nesters may even check into the exact same garden and to build a new nest among the plants. A dark-eyed junco pair that I have become acquainted with through my friend, Shelley has done exactly that!
Alongside her house is a large, beautiful bed of hostas. Over the last two years a pair of dark-eyed Juncos has chosen to check in at this “Hosta Hotel” for the breeding season, and these medium-sized sparrows are back again this year for their third stint at the Hosta Hotel. Lady Junco has moved in again, and rightly so — after all, the female junco is the one who chooses the nesting site so if she loved last year’s garden area, it is not surprising that she has chosen it three years in a row. The accommodation must be just right, and she is able to make sure that the room for her family is perfect. She arranges everything including putting a fine grassy lining in the bed she builds for her youngsters. Scientific research indicates that it generally takes three to seven days to make the nest just right.
Plenty of insects flit nearby in my friend’s other flower gardens and fields so breakfast, lunch and dinner are well taken care of during the breeding season. Juncos are also seed eaters and there are plenty of seeds available when a change in diet is required. What a place to raise a family! The beauty of this is that the nest is visible without having to disturb the bird or the vegetation. One can just lean over the hostas and peek in. For the observer, it is a room with an unobstructed view from the outside looking in.
Lady Junco took her time laying her eggs. It is known that juncos usually lay one egg a day, whereas some other avian species take two or even three days between egg laying. She laid five in total this year which equals the number she laid in each of the past two years. Juncos will lay anywhere from three to six eggs. Incubation is 12 to 13 days and the nestlings once hatched will remain in the nest under their parents care for 10 to 13 days. Junco parents are very responsible! They take turns incubating the eggs!
Several subspecies of the dark-eyed junco can be seen in the Pacific Northwest. Lady Junco, for example, belongs to the Oregon subspecies. The male junco of the Oregon subspecies has a very prominent black hood. His back is light brown and his white belly has buffy sides. Lady Junco, on the other hand, shows less contrast in her dress. Her hood is lighter in color, more toward the gray tone, and her sides and back are brown. The youngsters are heavily streaked overall.
This year’s brood is about to hatch as I write. To date, Lady Junco has successfully raised her brood. I expect that this year will be no exception. I wonder whether Lady Junco will choose the Hosta Hotel next year? Time will tell! Keep your eye open for the dark-eyed junco with its dark-eye, tiny pink bill, white-outer tail feathers and grayish or black head. It just may choose to check into a garden hotel in your yard!
”Common Birds of the Long Beach Peninsula,” by Kalbach and Stauffer, is available from the Chinook Observer, Bay Avenue Gallery, Time Enough Books and the Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau.