When one thinks of winter birds, juncos usually come to mind. The term is actually used for several subspecies including Slate-colored Juncos, White-winged Juncos, Oregon Juncos, Pink-sided Juncos, Gray-headed Juncos, Red-backed Juncos, and Guadalupe Juncos. As you can tell, the various types of juncos are named for their territory or their coloring
The Dark-eyed Junco is the best known and most common of the species. These birds can be easily spotted as they have gray or brownish heads, necks, and breasts with similar colored wings. They have a distinguishing white belly and white feathers in their tails.
While a small year-round resident population does exist in many northeastern states and some northwestern states, most of the country sees them mainly during the winter months starting in October. By March, they usually migrate back to their summer homes in the northern Unites States and Canada to breed.
Dark-eyed Juncos love forest areas as well as residential back yards. They are often seen at bird feeders or on the ground under feeders. In fact, they are known as one of the most common songbirds at backyard feeders. They especially like insects and seeds.
If good looks draw your attention, then you will find the Slate-colored Junco especially striking. The male stands out with his mostly black body contrasting beautifully against his white belly and white tail feathers. The female Slate colored Junco is more of a brownish gray. She also has some white tail feathers mixed in with her brown ones.
Scientists at the National Science Foundation have been studying juncos for decades. These “snowbirds” as they are sometimes called, give new insight into adaptability and breeding. Various types of juncos are found all around the world from isolated and remote areas like an island two hundred miles off the coast of Mexico to Wyoming’s Grand Tetons and the Highlands of Guatemala. They are studied for their ability to evolve quickly and adapt to the many varied climates and habitats where they are found.
For most of us, juncos are less about science and more about enjoyment. They are simply friendly, cute birds we look forward to seeing at our feeders in winter. For more information on Dark-eyed Juncos, visit http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/dark-eyed_junco/id. Thanks to our Facebook fan Angie Jenkins who calls juncos “our snowy birds”. She nominated juncos as the Cole’s Bird of the Month for January. We’d love to hear from more Facebook fans. Join the conversation at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Coles-Wild-Bird-Products-Company/125017247634656.