Vancouver Avian Research Centre

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Species: Dark-eyed Junco Junco hyemalis


The Dark-eyed Junco, one of the most common and familiar North American passerines. It occurs across the continent from northern Alaska south to northern Mexico. It is familiar because of its ubiquity, abundance, tameness and conspicuous ground-foraging winter flocks which are often found in suburbs (especially at feeders), at edges of parks and similar landscaped areas, around farms and along rural roadsides and stream edges.
Its plumage is characterized by white outer tail-feathers that flash when the bird takes flight and by a gray or blackish ‘hood’ and dark back that contrast with its whitish breast and belly.
Audubon stated that “there is not an individual in the Union who does not know the little Snow-Bird”, and to some people “snowbird” is the junco’s name today.


General: Medium sized sparrow. Exhibits marked geographic variation in plumage colouration and moderate variation in size.
14.5-16.5 cm length. 18-22 g weight.

Adult Male: Oregon Juncos have a dark gray to black hood, with a convex bib on their breast, dark chestnut back and scapulars, and rusty brown flanks. Conspicuous white outer tail-feathers that flash when the bird takes flight.

Adult female: Slightly duller, with grayer hoods, often brown on the nape and hind neck.

Juvenile: Forehead and crown brown, profusely streaked with dark brown; back, rump, and uppertail-coverts rusty, streaked with darker brown; tail dark brown with two lateral rectrices white; wings blackish, with coverts tipped with whitish or buffy white, forming two whitish wing-bars; throat and breast heavily streaked; flanks strongly tinged with buff; belly white or buffy white.

Similar Species: Oregon Juncos can generally be separated from Pink-sided Juncos by their darker hoods and browner flanks, although female Oregon Juncos are confused with Pink-sided Juncos. Gray-headed Juncos have gray heads with grayish white underparts, redder back and grayish flanks.

Behavior: This lively territorial bird is a ground dweller and feeds on seeds and small fruits in the open. It also moves through the lower branches of trees and seeks shelter in tangles of shrubs. Males sing persistently from an exposed perch.
Habitat Opening and edges of conifers and mixed woods; in winter roadsides, parks, suburban gardens, or patchy wooded areas in small flocks. Generally breeds in open coniferous forests.


Until the 1970s the currently recognized Dark-eyed Junco was split into 5 distinct species, 3 of them comprising 2 or more subspecies. The American Ornithologist Union (1973, 1982) lumped these 5 species but acknowledged the distinctiveness of the former species by designating them and their subspecies as “informal” groups of Junco hyemalis. Each group bears the scientific and vernacular name that it previously bore as a species: hyemalis (Slate Coloured Junco); aikeni (White-wing Junco); oreganus (Oregon Junco); caniceps (Grey-headed Junco); and insularis (Guadalupe Junco).
There are 3-5, usually 4, white, sometimes tinged with green, and spotted or blotched with reddish brown eggs. They are found in a compact nest of rootlets, shreds of bark, twigs, and mosses, lined with grasses and hair, on the ground protected by a rock ledge, mud bank, tufts of weeds, or a fallen log.

Conservation Status: No concern.

Capture Rates

Colony Farm is a preferred winter habitat for Oregon Junco. This is reflected in high capture rates (2010-2012; standardized as birds captured per 100 net hours) in October through March. As the species moves to their breeding territory in forested areas at higher elevation, numbers at the banding station decrease.


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