Juncos Are the Original Snowbirds

As winter arrives, flocks of these lively little birds suddenly appear across much of the U.S.

This audio story is brought to you by BirdNote, a partner of the National Audubon Society. BirdNote episodes air daily on public radio stations nationwide.


This is BirdNote!

By now, retirees and other people who want to escape the dark days of winter have headed to California or parts of the Southwest, or to sunny Florida. We call them “snowbirds,” because they leave as soon as the snow begins to fall and temperatures drop.

But there’s another type of snowbird — the Dark-eyed Junco. 

Although you may see Dark-eyed Juncos here in summer, come fall, many, many more arrive to spend the winter.  They’ve been nesting in the mountains or farther north. To them, this is a benign winter habitat.

These juncos often find seed feeders for winter feasting. Watch for a small bird with a dark sooty hood that covers its head and chest, a grey-brown back, and a white belly. However, the most attention-grabbing aspect of this shy junco is its tail. As the bird darts off, giving a sharp twittering call, it flashes the white outer feathers of its tail. 

Enjoy these Dark-eyed Juncos now and through the winter. Come spring, most of these snowbirds will head north or into higher elevations to begin a new breeding cycle. 

For BirdNote, I’m Mary McCann. If you know someone who might enjoy today's program, send them to our website, BirdNote.org.



Twittering call and spring song of the Dark-eyed Junco provided by Martyn Stewart, naturesound.org.

Chipping call of the Dark-eyed Junco provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by W.L. Hershberger

Producer: John Kessler

Executive Producer: Chris Peterson

© 2015 Tune In to Nature.org     November 2014–2018     Narrator: Mary McCann