|[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note|
|The Dark-eyed Junco, Junco hyemalis, is the best-known species of junco, a genus of small American sparrows.|
Adults generally have gray heads, necks, and breasts, gray or brown backs and wings, and a white belly. The white outer tail feathers flash distinctively in flight. The bill is usually pale pinkish.The males tend to have darker, more conspicuous markings than the female. Juveniles often have pale streaks and may even be mistaken for Vesper Sparrows until they acquire adult plumage at 2 to 3 months. There are several regional variations. The four main groups were formerly considered separate species, but they interbreed in areas of contact. The Guadalupe Junco is also sometimes considered part of this species.
The Slate-colored Junco (J. hyemalis hyemalis, carolinensis, and cismontanus) has a dark slate-gray head, breast and upper parts. Females are brownish gray, sometimes with reddish-brown flanks. It is found in North America in taiga forests from Alaska to Newfoundland and south to the Appalachian Mountains, wintering through most of the U. S.; it is relatively common in its range.
The White-winged Junco (J. hyemalis aikeni) has a medium gray head, breast, and upperparts with white wing bars. Females are washed brownish. It has more white in the tail than the other forms. It is a common endemic breeder in the Black Hills area of South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Montana, and winters south to northeastern New Mexico.
The Oregon Junco (J. hyemalis oreganus, shufeldti, montanus, thurberi, pinosus, pontilis, and townsendi) is found on the Pacific coast mountains from southeastern Alaska to extreme northern Baja California, wintering to the Great Plains and northern Sonora. It has a blackish-gray head and breast with a brown back and wings and reddish flanks, tending toward duller and paler plumage in the inland and southern parts of its range. This is the most common form in the west. There is current debate about whether to list Junco oreganus as a separate species, instead of just a subspecies.
The Pink-sided Junco (J. hyemalis mearnsi, often considered part of the Oregon group) has a gray head and breast, lighter than in the Oregon group, with a brown back and wings. It has pinkish-cinnamon color that is richer and covers more of the flanks and breast than in the Oregon. It breeds in the northern Rocky Mountains from southern Alberta to eastern Idaho and western Wyoming; it winters in central Idaho and nearby Montana and from southwestern South Dakota, southern Wyoming, and northern Utah to northern Sonora and Chihuahua.
The Gray-headed Junco (J. hyemalis caniceps) breeds in the southern Rocky Mountains from Colorado to central Arizona and New Mexico, and winters into northern Mexico. It is mainly rather light gray on top with a rusty back.
The Red-backed Junco (J. hyemalis dorsalis, often included in a "Gray-headed" group) is found in the southern mountains of Arizona and New Mexico. It differs from the "Gray-headed" Junco in having a more silvery bill with a dark upper mandible, a variable amount of rust on the wings, and pale underparts. This makes it similar to the Yellow-eyed Junco except for the dark eye. It does not overlap with Yellow-eyed Junco in breeding range.
The song is a trill similar to the Chipping Sparrow's, except that the Red-backed's song is more complex, similar to the Yellow-eyed Junco's. Calls include "tick" sounds and very high-pitched tinkling chips. A sample of their song can be heard at the USGS web site or at the Cornell University Ornithology Lab web site.
These birds forage on the ground. In winter, they often forage in flocks that may comprise several races. They mainly eat insects and seeds.
Their breeding habitat is coniferous or mixed forest areas throughout North America. They usually nest in a cup-shaped depression on the ground, well hidden by vegetation or other material, although nests are sometimes found in the lower branches of a shrub or tree. The nests have an outer diameter of about 10cm and are lined with fine grasses and hair.
Normally two broods of 4 eggs are laid during the breeding season. They are incubated by the female for 12 to 13 days. The slightly glossy egg shells are grayish or pale bluish-white and heavily spotted (sometimes splotched) with various shades of brown, purple or gray. The spotting is concentrated at the large end of the egg. Young leave nest between 11 and 14 days of hatching.
Northern birds migrate further south; many populations are permanent residents or altitudinal migrants. In winter, juncos are familiar in and around towns, and in many places are the most common birds at feeders. The Slate-colored Junco is a rare vagrant to western Europe and has wintered in Great Britain, usually in a domestic garden.
NinaM, kjpweb, CeltickRanger, Luis52, crs, pvs has marked this note useful
Only registered TrekNature members may rate photo notes.