Dark-Eyed Junco

(Junco hyemalis)

The Dark-eyed Junco:

Commonly called snowbird, because of its sudden appearance around winter bird feeding stations and winter gardens.

In the beginning there were considered to be four different species, slate-colored, Oregon, white-winged, and gray-headed.

Now, all are re-classified as one species.

Slate colored junco


A member of the sparrow family, the Dark-eyed is 5 to 6 inches long. The bill is pinkish and the eyes are dark.

This bird varies geographically. The eastern "Slate-colored" race is uniform dark gray or brownish gray depending on whether it is male or female.

The western "Oregon" race has black (male) or gray (female) hood and brown back.

The western "Pink-sided" race has a gray head and pinkish sides.

The "Gray-headed" race of the southern Rockies and Southwest is light gray with a reddish-brown back.

The "White-winged" race of north-central states has white on the tail and usually white wing bars.

Oregon junco

Mating Habits:

These birds are generally monogamous (one male to one female) defending their territory during the nesting and breeding season.

Although these birds vary in appearance, they will breed freely with one another.

Research also shows that over active males will spend time breeding with several females and ignoring all parenting duties.


Dark-eyes spend the summer in their breeding grounds of Canada, extreme northern United States, the mountains of the western States and New England regions.

The female builds and places its nest on the ground near tall vegetation.

The nest is cup shaped and built using grasses, moss, and twigs. The inside is lined with rootlets.

The female lays 3 to 6 gray or pale bluish eggs with dark blotches.

Incubation generally begins the night before the last egg is laid.

The female incubates the eggs for 12 to 13 days and the young leave the nest about 9 to 13 days after hatching.

1 - 2 broods each season.

Predation can be high in some locations.


Juncos feed mostly on the ground, eating weed and grass seeds. Sometimes you may watch a bird ride a weed head to the ground and then feed.

In summer these bird feed mainly on insects.

Attracting these birds to your feeders is as easy as scattering some cracked corn or sunflower seed on a Tray Feeder. A tray feeder keeps the seed off the ground.

Limited amounts of scratch food tossed on the ground in your gardens is very entertaining. Especially where there is snow as these little birds hop back and forth scratching for food.

Flocks return to the same areas each winter. They have a fixed membership and a strict hierarchy.

Aggression at feeding stations is expression of dominance.

Of Interest:

These birds display an interesting wintering habit. Males will winter farther North than females. Younger males will winter farther north than older males.

It's believed Dark-eyed Juncos do this in order to get back to the breeding ground to claim territory. Since females do not claim territory, they can winter farther south.

Platform Feeders for the Junco

Cracked Corn and Millet for Your Ground Feeders

Build a Bird Garden for all Your Wild Birds

Trees for Food and Protection

Shrubs for Food and Protection

Native Flowers Feed Your Birds

Native Grasses of North America

Be Sure to Offer Fresh Water

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