Fall on the mountain, two Yellow-eyed Juncos spar over water rights! (Or, two birds fly into a bar . . . . .)
So, winter in coming and that means it is time for a little tussle over winter territory.
Yellow-eyed Juncos are residents of the mountains of SE Arizona and SW New Mexico all the way south to Guatemala, being locally abundant, sedentary and as described by Cornell's Birds of the World, philopatric, tending to remain or return to a particular area. This makes them easy to study; therefore much is known about our local friends. For more details, see Birds of the World, my reference for this post.
Here we see a sequence of two males in an aggressive display over a water bowl kindly provided (along with food) by one of our friendly neighbors on the mountain. These dominance displays are observed year-round but are reported to occur most often when birds are in winter flocks and during territory establishment in early spring.
A Yellow-eyed Junco testing the waters by dipping his tail in the pond! Males and females look alike. I am assuming this is a male because of the behavior that followed this otherwise sedate portrait.
The male on the left is drinking at the water, when the male on the right flies in.
The interloper challenges the resident male by lifting his wings.
The stare down . . . .
The junco on the right raises up his head, the face-to-face bob, one of the 8 dominance moves reported in NJ Moore's 1972 PhD thesis, Ethology of the Mexican Junco, University of Arizona (Reference: Birds of the World) .
The bird on the left counters, raising his head and lifting his wings.
The junco on the right in turn stretches to look taller.
Then lifts his wings, as his opponent on the left crouches . . . .
At the sound of the bell, they are into the air
Tumbling in the air, the bird that was on the left is now on top. The crouch was a good move!
The bird that was sitting on the left is on top, maintaining his position. The juncos tumble staying airborne.
Our interloper decides to break off and begin his exit.
Perhaps wisely, he decides there must be water somewhere else. On to the next bar . . . .
For the photo geeks: This series was shot with a Canon R6 mirrorless full frame digital camera, attached to a Canon EF 100-400 mm IS II with a 1.4x extender, at 1/400 sec, f/7.1, ISO 2500, electronic shutter at ~20 frames/second. I captured 37 frames in under 2 seconds. The lack of a mirror allows rapid frame capture.
That's it for our dueling juncos! More October birds coming soon.
Henry Johnson, photographer and author of this site. For more detail, see About