About The Dark-eyed Junco

The dark-eyed junco, Junco hyemalis, has several regional variations all very distinct looking. However all dark-eyed juncos share the same general features including a plain patterning, a dark to black hood, white outer tail feathers, a white belly, dark eyes, and pink legs and beaks. They are also approximately 14 to 16 cm in length and weigh around 18 to 30 g. Juncos of different sexes are similar but females are generally pale and browner in comparison to the males.

The different regional variations of the dark-eyed junco are the: slate-colored junco, white-winged junco, Oregon junco, pink-sided junco, gray-headed junco, and the red-backed junco.

The Dark-eyed Junco Nesting Preferences

Dark-eyed juncos usually place their nests on bowls or depressions found in the ground hidden by a bush or rock, or are placed against a lower branch of a tree, or a shrub, or on tufts of vegetation. The nests are cup-shaped and are made of grass, twig, bark, and other plant materials, and are lined with fine grass and hair. The nests usually have an outer diameter of 10cm. The female junco lays 3 to 5 eggs that are grey or pale bluish-white in color. The eggs usually have blotches that come in various shaded of brown, purple, and gray. Dark-eyed juncos lay 1 to 2 broods each breeding season.

Building a Birdhouse For The Dark-eyed Junco

Since dark-eyed juncos prefer nesting on the ground they do not frequent birdhouses. However in the winter they sometimes make use of man-made winter roosts which can actually be simply a modified a spring nesting box used by other birds. The recommended dimensions for the winter roost are: 7” x 9” (floor), 13” (height), 1 ½ “ (entrance hole diameter). The entrance hole usually found near the top of the birdhouse should be place this time near the bottom to block drafts and minimize heat loss. Place 3 roosting perches inside the winter roost at variable heights.

The Dark-eyed Junco Mating Habits

Dark-eyed juncos pair at the beginning of breeding season. They stay faithful to their selected partner and defend their mutual territory together till the end of nesting and breeding season. Although the different kinds of dark-eyed juncos vary in appearance, the different birds breed freely with one another.

The Dark-eyed Junco Feeding Preferences

Dark-eyed juncos forage on the ground for their food. Their diet consists mostly of insects, seeds, and weeds. However they are also known to eat their own droppings. Since dark-eyed juncos like to eat seeds they are easily attracted to bird feeders especially those with cracked corn and sunflower seeds.

Interesting Dark-eyed Junco Facts

  • During winter male dark-eyed juncos go farther north than females and younger males go even farther north the older males. It is said that the males do this to get back to the breeding ground and claim their territories. Since females do not claim territories like the males do, they do no not need to winter as far north as the males do.
  • Dark-eyed juncos are also called snowbirds because they suddenly appear during winter in areas where winter feeding stations can be found. In fact dark-eyed juncos are the most common birds to be found in bird feeders during winter in the entire North America.