Nature Notes

Vol. XII September, 1934 No. 9

Family Troubles of the Oregon Junco

The Junco is one bird that pays dearly for its habit of nesting on the ground. The nest of the Oregon Junco is a simple cup formed of grasses placed preferably in some natural hollow in the ground. The base of a seedling fir or of a giant Hellebore is sought for the protection from both the elements and the prying eyes of predatory animals. With such a lack of defenses, a pair of Juncos may not succeed in raising a single bird. It is probable that the late nesting pairs are breeding a second nest of eggs, after having the first set fall prey to fox or weasel.

During July some of the boys from Camp Narada, working in the campground at Paradise, derived considerable enjoyment from watching the development of a nest of Junco fledglings. They noted that of the four eggs, only three hatched. The infertile egg was allowed to remain in the nest. The young birds left the nest during a week-end, so the boys did not have the opportunity to see them given their first flight lesson.

On the eleventh of July, while roaming a small canyon in search of flowers for the display at the Community House, the Paradise Ranger-naturalists found a nest of the Oregon Junco containing four eggs. As this was rather a late date for the brood of the Junco to be still unhatched, we decided to keep the nest under observation. Accordingly, the nest was photographed on July 12th. The next observation was made on July 19th, when it was learned that the eggs were still unhatched. The following week, July 26th, the nest contained four fledglings, each covered with a soft black down. They were photographed and we had hopes of obtaining an entire series of photographs illustration the development of the Junco.

We found the male brooding the eggs on the first and second trips to the nest. The female was covering the young on the occasion of the third trip. The old birds evidenced alarm and nervousness upon our close approach to the nest; but would leave only when we would attempt to hold the screening foliage away with a stick to simplify photographing. They would flit about in the nearby trees and "tsk, tsk" at us during the time that it took to take the picture. Before we had reached a distance of twenty feet, one of them would settle back upon the nest.

Returning to the nest on the third of August, we found it empty. Undoubtedly, the young birds had fallen prey to fox or weasel. We could not but feel a pang of disappointment for our series of pictures and sympathy for the parent birds who had failed to raise their family.

Wayne Durston

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