The Juncos and The Falcon

In winter, dark-eyed juncos (Junco hyemalis) form flocks. When disturbed, the entire flock, in unison, flies into a tree. These little sparrows are very difficult to approach without the entire flock suddenly flying off.

On a recent snowy and bitter cold day Leonard and I were walking along one of the fenced lanes separating our pastures. Suddenly a flock of juncos (at least 50) surrounded us and sat on the fence wires. They were so close we could touch them and one even flew into Leonard. As we moved along the juncos moved with us. What was causing this unusual behavior?

Aha! Leonard noticed a prairie falcon (Falco mexicanus) flying around us, nearby but keeping its distance. The juncos stayed with Leonard and I for several minutes while the falcon circled close by. Only after the falcon flew off did the juncos leave us.

Did the juncos somehow know that the prairie falcon would not attack them if they remained near Leonard and I? It certainly appeared that they were using us as protection.

These pictures were next to our house in Lookout CA (Modoc County).


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4 Responses to The Juncos and The Falcon

  1. tracy ferguson says:

    That is very interesting! Smart flock. Sometimes we get dark-eyed juncos at our feeder here in Pittsburgh, PA., but I have never seen a flock of them.


    • gingkochris says:

      Juncos are one of the most common birds in our yard during the winter. What you have and I miss the most are the cardinals and northern blue jays – we have none.


  2. usermattw says:

    What interesting behavior. It must be gratifying to know you’re less scary than a falcon. 🙂


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