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Show me your junco

Photo of a male junco

Male junco

Today I saw some juncos; it’s not the first time, for sure, but I had my camera so I was able to snap a few shots to show you just how gorgeous these little birds are.

The snowbird

The dark-eyed junco or “snowbird” is a common winter visitor to many Canadian backyards. It’s called the snowbird for its resemblance to the winter horizon – dark grey upper parts like the winter sky with a white snowy white breast like the ground (during winter). If you have juncos where you live, it will snow.

Photo of a female junco

Female junco

They’re everywhere

The junco is one of the most distinctive of our common sparrows. It’s a friendly little bird that can be found across the continent from Yukon to Newfoundland and Labrador and from the northern limit of trees southward into the northern United States. It’s the summer companion of the canoeist in the Canadian forests and of the hiker in Cape Breton.

Boys and girls

Adult boys are dark slate grey above and white below. The outer tail feathers are white against a dark slate tail. The white outer tail feathers flash distinctively in flight. The bill is usually pinkish. Boys tend to have darker, more conspicuous markings than girls.

Photo of a junco peeking from behind a branch


Adult girls and juveniles are generally paler and show a greater mixture of brown in the plumage. Generally, there is less white on the outer tail feathers in girls and juveniles, too.

Songs and Calls

Male dark-eyed Juncos sing an even, musical trill of 7-23 notes that lasts up to 2 seconds. Both sexes sing a much quieter song, as well, a series of whistles, trills and warbles. This song typically doesn’t carry any farther than about 40 feet.

Juncos have a high, short call that they often give in rapid succession when they fly and more slowly as they forage; the note may encourage other juncos to follow. You may also hear juncos give a high, fast twittering call of 6–19 notes during altercations or as birds flush.

You can listen to them, here.


Photo of a junco taking a break

Junco taking a break

Juncos forage on the ground and they work like crazy to eat on snowy days. They mainly eat insects and seeds. They dance around on the ground, kicking and pecking at anything that resembles seeds in the snow.  And they often dart into low shrubs or brush to either hide or get some rest, I’m not sure.

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About Rob Wiebe

Photo enthusiast, music lover

2 Responses to “Show me your junco”

  1. Steven February 27, 2012 10:17 PM #

    Wow Rob, these are great. I didn’t no juncos were sparrows. Thats so kool

  2. one female canuck February 28, 2012 1:36 AM #

    Love these photos and the write-up!
    I read elsewhere that (in general) the male species have to be more attractive because it is the females who choose with whom to mate, and not vice versa. Case in point, the peacock; completely surprised to discover that the beauties are the “adult boys,” and not the females.

Leave a Reply to Steven