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Dark-eyed Junco

Junco hyemalis ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: EMBERIZIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Dark-eyed Junco Photo

Dark-eyed Juncos are neat, even flashy little sparrows that flit about forest floors of the western mountains and Canada, then flood the rest of North America for winter. They’re easy to recognize by their crisp (though extremely variable) markings and the bright white tail feathers they habitually flash in flight. One of the most abundant forest birds of North America, you’ll see juncos on woodland walks as well as in flocks at your feeders or on the ground beneath them.

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Songs

  • Song ("Oregon" race)
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  • Song ("Oregon" race)
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  • Song ("Slate-colored" race)
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  • Courtesy of Macaulay Library
    © Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Male Dark-eyed Juncos sing an even, musical trill of 7-23 notes that lasts up to 2 seconds. It’s similar to the songs of both the Chipping Sparrow and the Pine Warbler, and is loud enough to be heard from several hundred feet away. Both sexes sing a much quieter song as well, a series of whistles, trills, and warbles that may sound like an American Goldfinch. This song typically doesn’t carry any farther than about 40 feet.

Calls

  • Songs and alarm call
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  • Alarm call and other call notes ("Oregon" race)
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  • Kew calls ("Slate-colored" race)
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  • Chip notes (Slate-colored race)
      No sound? Click here
  • Courtesy of Macaulay Library
    © Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Juncos have a high, short chip note that they often give in rapid succession when they fly and more slowly as they forage; the note may encourage other juncos to follow. A sharp but musical kew seems to indicate aggression and encourages two birds to move apart; it’s usually given by the dominant bird. You may also hear juncos give a high, fast twittering call of 6–19 notes during altercations or as birds flush.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Backyard Tips

You can find Dark-eyed Juncos by walking around open, partially wooded areas with understory for cover. Keep your eyes on the ground and listen for their twittering call or their trilling song. If they are flushed from the ground, look for an overall gray or dark brown bird with obvious white outer tail feathers.

Find This Bird

You can find Dark-eyed Juncos by walking around open, partially wooded areas with understory for cover. Keep your eyes on the ground and listen for their twittering call or their trilling song. If they are flushed from the ground, look for an overall gray or dark brown bird with obvious, white outer tail feathers.

Get Involved

Did you know that Dark-eyed Juncos are often one of the most frequently reported birds at feeders? Report your counts to Project FeederWatch.

Look for Dark-eyed Junco nests and contribute valuable data about them through NestWatch

Keep your cats indoors! Read about how cats kill a diversity of backyard birds, including juncos.

Enhance your yard to attract sparrows and other birds. Visit our web pages on landscaping for birds.

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Project FeederWatch Top-25 list of feeder birds

Dark-eyed Junco from Bent's Life Histories of North American Birds (1968)