Description of the Dark-eyed Junco

BREEDING MALE

The Dark-eyed Junco exhibits highly variable plumages. Each of the color patterns described below was previously considered a separate species. The images below illustrate the range of color variations. All have a generally hooded appearance with white outer tail feathers which are often seen in fiight.

Slate-colored Junco
- Mostly gray with pink bill.
- White belly, white outer tail feathers.
- Females may have buffy wash on top of head, back, and wings

Pink-sided Junco
- Gray hood, black lores, pale bill.
- Brownish back, some brown on wings, white outer tail feathers.
- White belly with pinkish sides.
- Females somewhat browner than males.

Oregon Junco
- Very dark gray hood with light bill. 
- Brownish back and wings (darker than on Pink-sided), white outer tail feathers.
- White belly with dark buff flanks.
- Females duller than males.

 

Dark-eyed Junco

 

Dark-eyed Junco

 

Dark-eyed Junco

 

Visit the Bent Life History page for additional information.

Female

Females may be paler or show more rusty coloration, depending on the race.

Seasonal change in appearance

None.

Juvenile

Spotted underparts, hooded appearance with pale belly, back gray with hints of rusty color.

Habitat

Frequents residential areas, park-like areas, open woodlands, grassy fields and brushy areas.  Also forest edges and clearings.

Diet

Seeds and insects.

Behavior

Almost always seen foraging in small flocks. Feeds primarily on the ground, scratching in leaves and other litter.

Range

Range is variable, depending on the race. There is a resident popuation in the west. Other populations nest across Canada and into Alaska. winter range extends across most of the United States and into parts of southern Canada.

More information:

Bent Life History

Visit the Bent Life History for extensive additional information on the Dark-eyed Junco.

Wing Shape

The shape of a bird's wing is often an indication of its habits and behavior. Fast flying birds have long, pointed wings. Soaring birds have long, broad wings. Different songbirds will have a slightly different wing shape. Some species look so much alike (Empidonax flycatchers) that scientists sometimes use the length of specific feathers to confirm a species' identification.

"Slate-colored" Dark-eyed Junco

"Oregon" Dark-eyed Junco

Wing images from the University of Puget Sound, Slater Museum of Natural History

Fun Facts

A very popular backyard feeder bird, the junco is commonly called the "Snowbird" in its winter range.

Vocalizations

A short twitter or trill. Song is a longer trill resembling Chipping Sparrow.

Attracting

Readily comes to backyard feeders for sunflower seed and suet.

Nesting

Nests on the ground, on overhanging road or stream bank, rarely in tree or shrub, generally up to about 20 feet above the ground. Nest is a cup-shaped structure built from grasses, mosses, small roots, bark, and twigs.

 

Dark-eyed Junco nest

Eggs: Number:3-6, usually 3-5.
Color: white to light bluish-white in color, with reddish-brown markings.


Incubation and fledging:
Female incubates the eggs and both sexes care for the young.
- Incubation lasts approximately 12-13 days
- Young are capable of flight when they are about 9-13 days old.