What Do Juncos Eat and How to Attract Them

Flocks of juncos arrive with cold snowy weather. Learn the best foods to offer at feeders and plants to grow to attract juncos and keep them coming back.

Our editors and experts handpick every product we feature. We may earn a commission from your purchases.

What Do Dark Eyed Juncos Eat?

what do dark eyed juncos eatCourtesy John Cushing

To attract a whole flock of juncos, you need to know what foods juncos eat. It takes a couple of feeders and the right plants to keep juncos full and coming back for more. Juncos are seedeaters; they’ll feed on seeds from your plants throughout much of the year. If you want to lure them to a feeder, offer black-oil sunflower seed or millet.

tray ground feeder for juncosVia Chewy.com

They’re ground feeders, so provide a large ground tray feeder like this one pictured above.

Shop Now

Dark eyed juncos reappear in many parts of the Lower 48 just as winter comes alive each year. They leave their breeding grounds in the Northwoods and the western mountains. Then they descend on backyard feeding stations across much of the U.S

In winter, juncos feast on seeds of weeds and grasses that are left standing in your landscape or in fields, parks and open woodlands. Seeds from common plants such as chickweed, buckwheat, lamb’s-quarters and sorrel make up 75 percent of their year-round diet.

But juncos also supplement their diet with feeder foods. These snowbirds prefer to forage on the ground for millet, sunflower hearts or cracked corn that has fallen from your feeders. They may occasionally steal a seed from a platform or tray feeder. Or they may snatch a juicy berry from a fruit-producing shrub.

“It’s a joy to see our winter birds, such as this dark-eyed junco, arrive in Virginia during the fall because that always indicates the cool, crisp fall weather has come to stay. The juncos always seem so cheerful regardless of the temperature and appear to really enjoy foraging in the snow. This photo (above) is of a junco in a planter on our back deck,” says John Cushing.

what do juncos eatCourtesy Lori L. Garske

  • Diet: Seeds, nuts and grains in winter; insects, berries and grass seeds in summer.
  • Backyard Favorites: Birdseed and cracked corn scattered on ground.

Next, here’s how to tell the difference between a junco vs chickadee.

Kirsten Schrader
Kirsten has more than 15 years of experience writing and editing birding and gardening content. As content director of Birds & Blooms, she leads the team of editors and freelance writers sharing tried-and-true advice for nature enthusiasts who love to garden and feed birds in their backyards. Since joining Birds & Blooms 17 years ago, Kirsten has held roles in digital and print, editing direct-to-consumer books, running as many as five magazines at a time, and managing special interest publications. Kirsten has traveled to see amazing North American birds and attended various festivals, including the Sedona Hummingbird Festival, the Rio Grande Bird Festival, The Biggest Week in American Birding Festival, and the Cape May Spring Festival. She has also witnessed the epic sandhill crane migration while on a photography workshop trip to Colorado. Kirsten has participated in several GardenComm and Outdoor Writers Association of America annual conferences and is a member of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology. When she's not researching, writing, and editing all things birding and gardening, Kirsten is enjoying the outdoors with her nature-loving family. She and her husband are slowly chipping away at making their small acreage the backyard of their dreams.