What Do Juncos Eat and How to Attract Them

Updated: Aug. 24, 2022

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.

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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.

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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.