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Yellow-eyed Junco

Silhouette SparrowsSparrows
Yellow-eyed JuncoJunco phaeonotus
  • ORDER: Passeriformes
  • FAMILY: Passerellidae

Basic Description

Yellow-eyed Juncos shuffle through the leaf litter of pine and pine-oak forests with fire in their eyes—a bright yellow-orange gleam that instantly sets them apart from the more widespread Dark-eyed Junco. Otherwise they share many of the markings of the "Red-backed" form of Dark-eyed Junco, including a gray head, two-toned bill, reddish-brown back, and white outer tail feathers that flash when they fly. This specialty of the southwestern U.S. also occurs in mountain forests through Mexico to Guatemala.

More ID Info
image of range map for Yellow-eyed Junco
Range map provided by Birds of the World
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Find This Bird

In the United States Yellow-eyed Juncos are best known from Arizona's Sky Islands, where large mountains jut out of the desert. Head on up one of these peaks and listen for the junco's trill. In summer the juncos you see should be Yellow-eyed—Dark-eyed Juncos don't breed here, though the similar "Gray-headed" form may show up in winter. If you don't hear them calling or singing, listen for gentle scratching in the understory and a piercing eye might peer back at you. You'll also want to keep an eye out for white tail flashes as the small birds fly around the understory.

Other Names

  • Junco Ojilumbre (Spanish)
  • Junco aux yeux jaunes (French)

Backyard Tips

Yellow-eyed Juncos eat seeds, especially in winter. If you live within their range, they may visit your yard for sunflower seeds and other seed types offered in platform feeders or scattered on the ground.

  • Cool Facts