At a Glance
In winter over much of the continent, flocks of Juncos can be found around woodland edges and suburban yards, feeding on the ground, making ticking calls as they fly up into the bushes. East of the plains the Juncos are all gray and white, but in the West they come in various color patterns, with reddish-brown on the back or sides or both; some of these were once regarded as different species. The forms have separate ranges in summer, but in winter several types may occur in the same flock in parts of the West.
All bird guide text and rangemaps adapted from Lives of North American Birds by Kenn Kaufman© 1996, used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
New World Sparrows, Perching Birds
Desert and Arid Habitats, Forests and Woodlands, High Mountains, Shrublands, Savannas, and Thickets, Urban and Suburban Habitats
Alaska and The North, California, Eastern Canada, Florida, Great Lakes, Mid Atlantic, New England, Northwest, Plains, Rocky Mountains, Southeast, Southwest, Texas, Western Canada
Direct Flight, Rapid Wingbeats
Range & Identification
Migration & Range Maps
Most populations are migratory, but some in southwestern mountains and on southern Pacific Coast may be permanent residents. Males tend to winter slightly farther north than females.
5-6 1/4" (13-16 cm). A variable bird with white outer tail feathers. Juveniles of all are streaky brown at first. "Slate-colored Junco" is the only form usually seen in the east. Solid gray on head, back, sides. Females and first-winter birds slightly browner than adult males. "Oregon Junco" is widespread in west, rarely appears in east. Male has solid black or slaty hood, chestnut back, rusty sides. Female paler, with gray hood. "Pink-sided Junco" nests in north-central Rockies region, winters farther south. A bit larger than most juncos, with pale blue-gray hood, pink sides, brown back. Female "Oregon" can be very similar. "White-winged Junco" nests in Black Hills region of South Dakota. Like "Slate-colored" but larger and paler, with white wing-bars, more white in tail. (Other juncos rarely can have wing-bars also). "Gray-headed Junco" nests mostly in central Rockies and mountains of Great Basin. Reddish patch on back contrasts with gray hood. Unlike "Oregon Junco," sides and flanks are gray, not brown or tan. "Red-backed Junco" is resident in mountains of northern Arizona and New Mexico, seldom moves far from nesting areas. Gray sides and reddish back like "Gray-headed," but has pale throat, mostly dark bill.
About the size of a Robin, About the size of a Sparrow
Black, Brown, Gray, Red, Tan, White
Notched, Rounded, Square-tipped
Songs and Calls
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.
Conifer and mixed woods. In winter, open woods, undergrowth, roadsides, brush. Over its wide range, breeding habitat is consistently coniferous or mixed woodland, usually in rather open situations such as edges or clearings. Winters in many kinds of semi-open habitats including woodland edges, thickets, brushy places, suburban areas.
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3-5, rarely 6. Whitish to bluish white or pale gray, with markings of brown and gray often concentrated at larger end. Incubation is by female, about 11-13 days.
Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave the nest 9-13 days after hatching. 1-2 broods per year, sometimes 3.
Forages mostly while hopping and running on the ground. Sometimes scratches with its feet in leaf-litter or snow. Will come to bird feeders, but tends to forage on the ground under the feeding tray.
Mostly seeds and insects. Close to half of summer diet of adults consists of insects, including caterpillars, beetles, grasshoppers, true bugs, and others, also spiders. Feeds heavily on seeds of weeds and grasses, especially in winter. Also eats some berries. Young are fed mostly insects.
Male sings from high perch to defend nesting territory. In courtship, both members of pair may hop about on ground with wings drooped and with tail spread widely to show off white outer tail feathers; male may give soft song. Nest site is almost always on ground, well hidden under overhanging grass, under log, rock, or exposed roots, or in shallow hole in dirt bank. Sometimes up in shrub, tree, or ledge of building, rarely more than 10' above ground. Nest (built mostly by female) is an open cup of grass, weeds, leaves, lined with fine grass and sometimes with hair or feathers.
Abundant and widespread.
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Dark-eyed Junco. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.
Climate Threats Facing the Dark-eyed Junco
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.