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Dark-eyed Junco - BirdForum Opus

Male, "Slate-colored" subspecies.
Photo © by Muskrat
Northeastern Pennsylvania, USA, 25 January 2006
Junco hyemalis


Female Slate-colored subspecies
Photo © by Ronald B. Davis
Orono, Maine, USA, 28 October 2010

5-6 1/4 in (13-16 cm)
This species shows much geographic variation in color, with many recognized populations or subspecies. All are easily recognizable as Juncos, due to the body shape and behavior.

The subspecies are named and grouped variously depending on the authority listing them, but the following four major designations are common:

Oregon Junco

Found in western populations. The male has a black hood, chestnut mantle, and white underparts with buff sides. The female has a gray hood.

Slate-colored Junco

The male has a dark slate-gray head, upper breast, flanks, and upperparts, with a white lower breast and belly. Both forms have pink bill and dark gray tail with white outer tail feathers conspicuous in flight.

White-winged Junco
Photo © by ducbucln
Manzanita, Oregon, USA, 22 May 2019

Isolated populations in the pine forests of the Black Hills in western South Dakota and eastern Montana. Two white wing bars, extensive white in outer tail feathers.

Gray-headed Junco

Populations in the Southwest. Gray overall, with reddish-brown back.


Northern birds migrate further south; many populations are permanent residents or altitudinal migrants. In winter, juncos are familiar in and around towns. The "Slate-coloured" Junco is a rare vagrant to western Europe and has wintered in Great Britain, usually in a domestic garden.


The best-known species of junco, a genus of small American sparrows. 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.
Guadalupe Junco was formerly included in this species.


Subspecies mearnsi, Pink sided
Photo © by ducbucln
Kelseyville, California, October 2014

There are around 14-15 subspecies[1]
Slate-colored Group

  • J. h. hyemalis: Northern Alaska and Yukon to north-central US; winters to northern Mexico
  • J. h. carolinensis: Appalachian Mountains to northern Georgia
  • J. h. cismontanus (Cassiar): South-central Yukon to west-central Alberta; winters to northern Baja and central Texas

Oregon Group

  • J. h. oreganus: Coastal south-eastern Alaska to central British Columbia; winters to central California
  • J. h. montanus: Interior British Columbia and south-western Alberta to eastern Oregon, western Montana, central Idaho
  • J. h. shufeldti: Western slopes of coastal mountains from south-western British Columbia to western Oregon
  • J. h. thurberi: Southern Oregon to mountains of San Diego Co. and southern Nevada; winters to northern Baja, south-western New Mexico
  • J. h. pinosus: Coastal ranges of California (San Francisco to southern Monterey Co.)
  • J. h. pontilus: Mountains of northern Baja California (Sierra Juárez)
  • J. h. townsendi: Mountains of northern Baja California (San Pedro Mártir)

Pink-sided Group

From left to right: Oregon female; Slate colored 1st winter male; Oregon male; Slate colored 1st winter; Oregon male; bird at front Oregon male)
Photo © by digishooter
Wofford Heights, Kern County, California, USA, 20 December 2014

White-winged Group

  • J. h. aikeni : South-eastern Montana to western South Dakota, north-eastern Wyoming and north-western Nebraska

Gray-headed Group

  • J. h. caniceps: Mountains of southern Idaho to Utah and northern New Mexico; winters to north-western Mexico

Red-backed Group

  • J. h. dorsalis: Mountains of New Mexico, northern Arizona and extreme western Texas


Openings and edges of coniferous and mixed woods; in winter, fields, roadsides, parks, suburban gardens.



Red-backed Junco
Photo © by Brian Hubbs
Greer, Arizona, 10 July 2016

This lively territorial bird is a ground dweller, but also moves through the lower branches of trees and seeks shelter in the tangle of shrubs.


The 3-6 pale bluish or greenish eggs, with variegated blotches concentrated at the larger end, are laid in a deep, compact nest of rootlets, shreds of bark, twigs, and mosses, lined with grasses and hair, placed on or near the ground, protected by a rock ledge, a mud bank, tufts of weeds, or a fallen log. Incubation lasts about 12 days by the female only. Young juncos leave the nest from 10 to 13 days after hatching. These birds often have 2 to 3 broods a summer.


Feeds on seeds, small fruits, insects, and berries.


Call: A rapid tew tew tew. Sometimes given softly. Also, tzeep tzeep especially when disturbed.
Song: A high trill

Listen to a song clip (subspecies J. h. pinosus)
Recording © by Joseph Morlan
Pacifica, California, 22 March 2020


Mostly migratory; males migrate earlier than females, and tend to winter farther north in the East. Some populations resident.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, J. A. Gerbracht, D. Lepage, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2021. The eBird/Clements checklist of Birds of the World: v2021. Downloaded from https://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Nolan Jr., V., E. D. Ketterson, D. A. Cristol, C. M. Rogers, E. D. Clotfelter, R. C. Titus, S. J. Schoech, and E. Snajdr (2020). Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.daejun.01

Recommended Citation

External Links

GSearch checked for 2020 platform.1