Dark-eyed Junco

Junco hyemalis

Dark-eyed Junco
Photo Courtesy of Tom Grey

Juncos are abundant in mountain regions. Frequently seen hopping on the ground. When startled, they fly into low branches of nearby tree or shrub.

Species show a geographic variation in color. Dark-eyed juncos have very dark head & throat, gray-brown backs, white belly, white outer tail feathers, whitish bill. A small bird, 5-7 in (13-18 cm).
Song is a short metallic trill or series of trills. Calls include tsip, zeet and kew-kew. Members of a flock often spread out widely, but keep in contact by constantly calling
Juncos are omnivores, feeding primarily on the ground. Food is mostly weed and grass seeds, small fruits, leaf parts. They also eat beetles, ants, caterpillars, grasshoppers, leafhoppers, and spiders.
Juncos are bimodal—they breed in spring and summer. They are ground nesters, which makes them especially vulnerable to predators such as gopher snakes, raccoons, and weasels. Nest protected by rock ledge, mudbank, weeds, fallen logs. Nest made of grasses & plant stems; lined with animal hair. Clutch of 3-6 eggs; whitish flecked with reddish-brown. Incubation is 12-14 days; fledge about two weeks later.
Prefer forested areas, forest edges; searches for food among the needles and leaf litter. A widely territorial, ground dweller.
Found in wooded regions of western mountains in North America from Alaska to Newfoundland down to Baja California.
Juncos flock together, perhaps hundreds at a time, migrating to warmer climates. Flocking provides protection from predatory birds and also aids young in finding winterfeeding grounds. In late fall they move to lower elevations.

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