Description 5 - 6 1/4" This species shows much
geographic variation in color. Typically, male of
western population ("Oregon Junco") has black
hood, chestnut mantle, white underparts with buff
Eastern male ("Slate-colored Junco") is dark slate-gray
on head, upper breast, flanks, and upperparts, with
white lower breast and belly. Both forms have pink bill
and dark gray tail with white outer tail feathers
conspicuous in flight.
The pine forests of the Black Hills in western South
Dakota and eastern Montana have an isolated
population ("White-winged Junco") similar to the
eastern form but with 2 white wing bars and extensive
white outer tail feathers.
Birds of the Southwest ("Gray-headed Juncos") are
gray overall, with a reddish-brown back. Female
"Oregon Junco" has gray hood; females of all forms
Habitat Prefers moist openings and edges of
coniferous and mixed woods; in winter, fields,
roadsides, parks, suburban gardens.
Diet During the summer, about half of the Dark-eyed
Junco's diet is made up of insects and other
arthropods, the other half consists of seeds. The
young eat mostly arthropods. In winter, the diet shifts
more to seeds and berries.
Nesting The male Dark-eyed Junco sings from a
high perch to defend his territory and attract a mate.
During courtship, both members of a pair hop about
on the ground with their wings drooped and their tails
spread, showing off their white outer tail feathers.
The nest, which the female builds, is almost always on
the ground. It is often in a depression, hidden under
grass, a log, a rock, or an upturned tree root. The nest
is a cup made of grass, moss, lichen, rootlets, twigs,
and bark fiber, and is lined with fine grass, hair, or
The female incubates 3 to 5 bluish or greenish eggs,
with variegated blotches concentrated at the larger
end, for 11 to 13 days. Both parents feed the chicks,
which leave the nest at 9 to 11 days. Pairs typically
raise 1 or 2 broods per year.
Range Breeds from Alaska east across Canada to
Newfoundland, south to mountains in Mexico and
Georgia. Winters south to Gulf Coast and northern
Most Dark-eyed Juncos are migratory, following the
food supply south, but many will winter over, given an
adequate food supply. Males winter farther north than
Voice Ringing metallic trill on the same pitch.
Members of a flock may spread out widely, keeping in
contact by constantly calling tsick or tchet. Also a soft
buzzy trill in flight.
Discussion Dark-eyed Juncos are flocking birds
with a distinct social hierarchy. This lively territorial bird
is a ground dweller and feeds on seeds and small
fruits in the open, scratching with their feet to find food.
It also moves through the lower branches of trees and
seeks shelter in the tangle of shrubs. The flash of
white tail feathers serve as a signal that alerts
members of the flock when one is alarmed.
Until recently the many geographical forms of this bird
were considered separate species, but since they
interbreed wherever their ranges meet, they are now
considered one species.
|December 2005 Junco (at left) poses with a male House Finch on a snowy log
|February 2007 Snow brings these birds in droves.