You are here

Dark-Eyed Junco

Dark-Eyed Junco
Junco hyemalis
(Order: Passeriformes, Family: Emberizidae)

Diagnosis: Dark-Eyed Juncos are small to medium sized sparrows and are highly variable in pattern and coloration. In general, adults are usually dark green or gray with a white belly. Females tend to be dark brown and adult males are slate colored. Both sexes have a small pink beak, sometimes tipped with a small amount of black color. Although rare, some birds will exhibit two white wing-bars. Overall length is anywhere from 14-16 cm and weight somewhere between 18-30 g. Eyes are black and the tail has a distinctive white flash pattern.

Natural History: Ground nesters, the placement and orientation are highly variable. Females use their beaks to weave together twigs, leaves, moss, grasses, ferns, rootlets, and other plant material to form a nest. Typically, nests are 3-5 in. across and 1-3 in. deep and can take 3-7 days to build. Clutches are usually 3-6 white, gray, or blue speckled eggs, although they are sometimes unmarked. Incubation period can take 12-13 days. Young are born with down on their back and eyes closed and may take 10-13 days to fledge.

Distribution:  Winters throughout the continental United States. Females and older birds tend to migrate further south. Juncos breed in the Northern Boreal Forest of Canada.


Habitat: Ground feeder, stays in low-lying shrubs on breeding grounds. Roosts in Juniper during over-wintering period.   

Diet: Mainly feeds on seeds specifically chickweed, buckwheat, lamb’s quarters, and sorrel. May consume insects during the breeding season.

Conservation status: IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern


Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

Flickr Images:

Colorado Photo Hikes:

Lloyd Spitalnik's Photo Gallery:



Boreal Songbird Initiative (BSI).  Boreal Songbird Initiative: Dark-eyed Junco.  BSI, 2007.  Web.  9 Nov. 2010. <>.

Ketterson, Ellen D., Nolan, Val.  “The Role of Migration and Winter Mortality in the Life History of a Temperate-zone Migrant, the Dark-eyed Junco, as Determined From Demographic Analyses of Winter Populations.”  The Auk.  99 (Apr. 1982): 243-59. Print.

Peterson, Roger Tory. 2010. Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Eastern and Central North American 6th Edition. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. pp 306-307, fig 461.


Image Credits:

Field Station Junco: Andrew Spellmeyer

© Lloyd Spitalnik

“Nikon Jim” :

© René Corado

© René Corado

Submitted by:  Andrew Spellmeyer, July, 2011.

Wichita State University
Generated on 2011. This website is continuously updated.
Comments can be sent to Mary Liz Jameson.
Designed by Bioadventures.