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A photo of a Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis), male
Dark-eyed Junco, Male

Dark-eyed Junco

Junco hyemalis

The dark-eyed junco (Junco hyemalis) is a small, grayish sparrow, common across much of temperate North America and extending into the Arctic during summer. Exhibiting a variable plumage, this species is a study in shades of gray and white, with a flash of white outer tail feathers that is particularly noticeable in flight.

Identification Tips

Adults typically present with gray heads, necks, and breasts, with backs and wings in gray or brown. The belly is white, and the bill is usually pale pinkish. Males are generally darker and more marked than females. The species measures 13 to 17.5 cm in length, with a wingspan of 18 to 25 cm, and can weigh between 18 to 30 grams.

Habitat

The dark-eyed junco favors coniferous or mixed forest areas for breeding, but is adaptable and may use other suitable habitats. In winter, they are often found in towns and are a common sight at feeders.

Distribution

This bird breeds across North America, migrating southward in winter. Some populations are permanent residents or move to lower altitudes during winter. The slate-colored dark-eyed junco is known to occasionally vagrant to Western Europe.

Behaviour

Dark-eyed juncos forage on the ground, often in flocks which may include several subspecies. They are primarily seed-eaters, with insects occasionally supplementing their diet.

Song & Calls

The song is a trill similar to that of the chipping sparrow, with variations among subspecies. Calls include tick sounds and high-pitched chips. The song is complex and can be heard on ornithological websites.

Breeding

Nesting typically occurs in a concealed ground depression or sometimes in low shrub branches. Clutches usually consist of four eggs, with two broods common in a season. Eggs are grayish or pale bluish-white with brown or gray spots. Incubation is by the female for about 12 to 13 days, and fledglings leave the nest 11 to 14 days after hatching.

Similar Species

The dark-eyed junco's plumage can vary, leading to potential confusion with other species. Juveniles may resemble vesper sparrows until they acquire adult plumage.

Diet and Feeding

Seeds form the bulk of the dark-eyed junco's diet, with insects taken occasionally. They are known to forage in flocks, particularly in winter.

Conservation status

The IUCN lists the dark-eyed junco as Least Concern, indicating a stable population across its wide range.

Dark-eyed Junco Sounds

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Recorded by: ยฉย 
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