Bird Lady Blog

July 7, 2010

Black-crowned Night-Heron and Dark-eyed Junco

Filed under: Black-crowned Night-Heron and Dark-eyed Junco,Munds Park Birding — Munds Park Birding @ 4:20 am

Summer has again arrived, and most of our birds are in the midst of raising their fledglings, watching out for predators, and delighting us with their visits to our feeders, bird baths, and if we are lucky, our nest boxes.  Speaking of fledglings, we have at least one juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron growing up in Munds Park, seen frequently at the pond to the left of the 1st green at Pinewood Country Club.  I hadn’t seen a Black-crowned Night-Heron before this summer in Munds Park, but given that this species is typically feeding at dusk or night, I’m not too surprised as I am usually dining versus birding towards the end of the day.  The Black-crowned Night Heron is the most widespread heron in the world, breeding on five continents, including in Africa, Japan, and Europe.  The first time I saw Black-crowned Night-Herons was at closing time coming out of the Phoenix Zoo around the entrance pond.  I have also seen many of them nesting in trees outside of apartment homes and condos near Solano Beach in southern California.  I have a feeling the human residents were reminded constantly of the birds’ presence by the loud, noisy sound they make plus the little “presents” they drop onto the sidewalks below.

The Black-crowned Night-Heron is a short, stocky heron, and when mature it has a black crown and back, with the remainder of the body white or gray, and red eyes.  When I looked through my binoculars at the juvenile bird in our Munds Park pond a few days ago, the red eyes, in addition to its body type, were the first clues.  These birds are omnivorous, feeding on fish, crustaceans, insects, amphibians, small rodents, small reptiles, small birds, and occasionally plant material.   The juvenile we saw looked like it was learning to hunt by foraging in the shallower water, and it was pulling out vegetation as well.  Young birds hunt more during the day to stay away from competing adults.  Let’s hope this one has had some success and will become a regular resident of our community.

One of the birds that came back this summer and visited our bird bath is the Dark-eyed Junco.  These are sparrow-like birds but with a neat, flashy look.  You can see the whites on both sides of their tail when they fly, which is thought to be a signal to others in the flock when it is time to quickly take flight.  An adult will generally have a gray head, neck, and breast, and a large rust area on its back.  However, there are many variations of Dark-eyed Juncos in the U.S. – some with pink sides and some with a black hood. 

When not at your feeder, Dark-eyed Juncos are found mostly foraging on the ground.  These Juncos are a very abundant forest bird in North America, and during the winter they are a very common bird at feeders.  In fact, in the 1996/1997 Project Feeder Watch season, this was the most common bird reported.  They are sometimes are referred to as “snow birds” because their frequent and welcome visits to feeders during the winter in much of North America.  However, in Arizona overall the top feeder bird reported has been the House Finch.

Listen for their song – a ringing, metallic trill on the same pitch.  When Dark-eyed Juncos flock together they keep in contact as they spread by constantly calling a “tsick” to each other.  You can attract Dark-eyed Juncos with a bird bath and with cracked corn, peanuts, and nut meats in a tray feeder close to the ground.  I am going to try a tray feeder hanging from my deck and see if I can attract them there as well.   I’ll let you know what success I have.

Munds Park residents who are interested in birds will hold an informal get-together on Saturday, July 10th, from 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. in one of the meeting rooms at Pinewood Country Club.  Come as you are, share some of your favorite sightings if you wish, and get to know some of your bird-loving neighbors.  Thanks in advance to Pinewood Country Club for accommodating our group.

You can reach me at, and you can read all the articles and leave your comments, if you are so inclined, at


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