Family New World Sparrows (Passerellidae)

Least Concern

Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)


French: Junco ardoisé German: Winterammer Spanish: Junco pizarroso

Fringilla hyemalis


, 1758,

South Carolina, USA


Nominate race has hybridized with Zonotrichia albicollis. Usually considered conspecific with J. insularis#R. Taxonomy complex; races close genetically, and more closely allied to N races of J. phaeonotus than to S populations of latter; S races of present species very similar morphologically to J. phaeonotus. Races form five groups: “hyemalis group” (nominate, carolinensis, cismontanus), “oreganus group” (oreganus, shufeldti, montanus, thurberi, pinosus, pontilis, townsendi), “caniceps group” (caniceps, dorsalis, mutabilis), and two single-subspecies groups, i.e. “aikeni group” and “mearnsi group”; these sometimes treated as five separate species, but hybridization occurs among them and several races intergrade with others from different groups (cismontanus often considered a hybrid between nominate and “oreganus group”). In the past, race dorsalis sometimes treated as a separate species (Red-backed Junco) and may merit recognition as sixth racial group. Proposed race eumesus (from Blue Mts of Washington) included in shufeldti. Availability of name shufeldti has been disputed, and replacement name simillima proposed. Fifteen subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • J. h. hyemalis (Linnaeus, 1758) – Slate-colored Junco – Alaska and across Canada from C Yukon, NW & C Mackenzie and SW Nunavut E to N Quebec, Labrador and Newfoundland and S to NE British Columbia, C Alberta, C Saskatchewan, S Manitoba and NE USA (S to C Minnesota, SE Wisconsin, C Michigan, W & N Pennsylvania, SE New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts); non-breeding from S edge of breeding range S (mostly E of Rocky Mts) to NW Mexico (N Baja California, N Sonora and C Chihuahua) and Gulf Coast (S Texas E to NE Florida).
  • J. h. cismontanus Dwight, 1918 – SC Yukon S to C interior of British Columbia and WC Alberta; non-breeding from S coastal British Columbia S to extreme NW Mexico (N Baja California) and SW USA (S to Arizona and New Mexico, E to Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and C Texas.
  • J. h. carolinensis Brewster, 1886 – E USA in Appalachian Mts (from NW West Virginia and W Maryland S to N Georgia); winters in breeding area, and adjacent lower elevations.
  • J. h. oreganus (J. K. Townsend, 1837) – Oregon Junco – SE Alaska S to Calvert I, in CW British Columbia; non-breeding also S along coast to C (rarely S) California.
  • J. h. shufeldti Coale, 1887 – W slope of coastal ranges from SW British Columbia S in W USA to W Oregon (to c. 43° N); non-breeding S to S California, sparsely also to SE Idaho, Colorado, W Texas and N Mexico (Chihuahua).
  • J. h. montanus Ridgway, 1898 – C interior British Columbia and SW Alberta S in W USA to E Oregon, W Montana and C Idaho; non-breeding to S British Columbia, W Montana and South Dakota S to N Mexico (N Baja California, N Sonora and C Chihuahua) and S USA (to C Texas and E Kansas).
  • J. h. thurberi Anthony, 1890 – S Oregon and California (S on coast to San Francisco, and in interior mountains to San Diego County); non-breeding also in adjacent lowlands E to Arizona and SW New Mexico and S to NW Mexico (Baja California and Sonora).
  • J. h. pinosus Loomis, 1893 – coastal ranges of C California (from San Francisco S to San Benito and S Monterey County).
  • J. h. pontilis Oberholser, 1919 – Sierra Juárez, in N Baja California (NW Mexico).
  • J. h. townsendi Anthony, 1889 – Sierra San Pedro Mártir, in N Baja California.
  • J. h. aikeni Ridgway, 1873 – White-winged Junco – SE Montana, W South Dakota, NE Wyoming and NW Nebraska; non-breeding also S to SW Colorado, W Kansas, N New Mexico and W Oklahoma.
  • J. h. mearnsi Ridgway, 1897 – Pink-sided Junco – extreme S Canada (SE Alberta and SW Saskatchewan) S in USA to E Idaho, C Montana and NE Wyoming; non-breeding from N Utah, NW Wyoming and W & C Nebraska S to N Mexico (N Sonora, C Chihuahua and Durango) and W Texas.
  • J. h. caniceps (Woodhouse, 1853) – Gray-headed Junco – mountains of S Idaho and S Wyoming S to C & E Nevada, S Utah, W & C Colorado and N New Mexico; non-breeding also E to W Nebraska, W Kansas and W Texas, S to N Mexico (Sonora, N Sinaloa, Chihuahua and N Durango).
  • J. h. dorsalis Henry, 1858 – mountains of New Mexico, extreme W Texas and N Arizona; non-breeding also slightly farther S.
  • J. h. mutabilis van Rossem, 1931 – mountains of S Nevada and adjacent SE California.
  • Descriptive notes

    13–17 cm, 14·3–25·4 g (“hyemalis group”, Pennsylvania); 14–15·4 cm, male average 18 g, female 17·8 g (... read more


    Song, used commonly during breeding season and given throughout year, usually from tree perch,... read more


    Breeds in variety of woodlands, especially open woodlands with conifers, and cut-over woodlands;... read more

    Food and feeding

    In studies in W USA (California), diet for all months combined (except May) consisted of 24% animal items and 76% vegetable matter. Insects... read more


    Apr–Aug on coast and from Jun in interior in British Columbia, May–Jul in Ontario, Apr–Aug in Virginia, May in Sierra San... read more


    Mostly migratory; males migrate earlier than females, and tend (in E) to winter farther N, but... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Often common or very common in appropriate habitat throughout range; global population estimate 260 million individuals. Forest-... read more

    Recommended citation

    Rising, J. (2020). Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 25 February 2020).