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Weekly Wisdom: Juncos and their Toronto winter vacation
October 06, 2022 by High Park Nature Centre

Welcome to Weekly Wisdom! Stay tuned for some fun nature facts to amp up your nature knowledge!

Come fall, many birds in Toronto and southern Ontario take off for warmer weather down south. One rare exception is the Dark-eyed Junco! Traveling down from their Arctic breeding grounds in northern Canada and Alaska, many juncos come down to Toronto for their warm winter vacation.

Dark-eyed Juncos prefer to move through the forest by hopping around on the forest floor. They can spend as much as 65% of their time on the ground!I n High Park, you can find these juncos starting sometime early to mid October scouring the ground in groups in search of seeds and other treats.

Juncos are also called the snowbirds of the middle latitudes. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's website, these birds are among the most common birds in North America with an estimated population of 630 million birds. They also have relatively long lifespans, with the oldest recorded Dark-eyed Junco being more than 11 years old!

Visualization courtesy of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's eBird Status and Trends data

But why do some Juncos stick around in Toronto where it is still relatively cold? The answer is that bird migration has a lot more to do with resource availability than temperatures. Birds that rely more on insects for their diet would head more south than birds that can manage with seeds and other simpler dietary needs. This is the reason Juncos can suffice feeding on seeds and other resources that can be gathered from the forest floor during the winter season in southern Ontario. This is also the reason birds like the Northern Cardinal stick around Toronto for the winter and have a permanent presence year-round.

Read more:
Dark-eyed Junco, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology
The Basics Of Bird Migration: How, Why, And Where, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology


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