A medium-sized (5 ½ - 6 ¾ inches) bunting, the Dark-eyed Junco comprises several geographic races possessing different patterns of plumage coloration. The eastern “Slate-colored Junco” is slate gray above and white below. The northwestern “Oregon Junco” is black on the head and breast with a chestnut back, gray wings, and white belly. The southern Rocky Mountains “Gray-headed Junco” is light gray on the head, breast, and tail with a chestnut back. The western Plains “White-winged Junco” is similar to the eastern race, but has strong white wing bars. Another race, the northern Rocky Mountains “Pink-sided Junco” is similar to the northwestern race, but is lighter gray on the head, wings, and tail. These races interbreed where their ranges overlap, producing hybrid birds with intermediate plumage. All races of this “snowbird” have in common a pale bill, dark eyes, and white feathers on the outer tail. Female Juncos are similar to males in the same race, but are usually paler and duller. The Dark-eyed Junco breeds across much of Alaska, Canada, and the northern United States, extending southwards at higher elevations to northern Georgia in the east and to Texas in the west. Dark-eyed Juncos are present all year in southern portions of this species’ breeding range, but birds breeding in these areas are displaced southward by more northern birds during winter, when this species may be found across southern Canada, the U.S., and northern Mexico. Dark-eyed Juncos breed in a variety of habitats across this species’ extensive breeding range, all of which have in common cool summer temperatures and some form of forest cover. During the winter, this species inhabits forest edges and other semi-open habitats, and will often enter urban or suburban areas where food is plentiful. Dark-eyed Juncos eat a variety of seeds and other plant material, but will also eat insects when available. In appropriate habitat, Dark-eyed Juncos may be most easily seen foraging for food on the ground or in the branches of trees. In winter, this species may be seen foraging as part of large flocks containing multiple species of sparrows and buntings. Dark-eyed Juncos are most active during the day, but, like many migratory songbirds, this species migrates at night.
Abundant migrant and common winter resident, from mid-September to mid-May. Found in flocks in plowed fields, along roadsides, and at feeders. Sexes are similar.