Monday, January 17, 2011

Slate-colored & Oregon Dark-eyed Juncos

In Idaho and Utah, the Oregon race of Dark-eyed Junco seems to be the most common.  Every now and then you find a Slate-colored Dark-eyed Junco in the west like this guy that showed up in my backyard. Notice how it has the dark flanks?  The feathers are basically just black or white.  During my couple of months spent in the east last fall, I observed that almost all the Juncos were Slate-colored, with only the occasional Oregon.  No matter where you live, when you get the less common Junco in your backyard it's a nice treat!

Another tip I came across somewhere, that seems to hold true most of the time is that Slate-colored Juncos have a concave dark bib, while the Oregon has a more convex dark bib as emphasized with the red curves.

Oregon Dark-eyed Juncos have brown to peach flanks and more brown on the back and upper parts, so their feathers are all around more colorful than the Slate-colored.  I'm not sure if it is true or just my perception, but it seems that Slate-colored Juncos are slightly larger and broader chested, and that's not just based on these photos.

The first Dark-eyed Junco I ever saw was a Gray-headed in the mountains near Payson, Arizona.  I was also fortunate enough to see a Yellow-eyed Junco at Ramsey Canyon, AZ which is considered a different species altogether.  There are a couple other Dark-eyed Junco subspecies, but I don't recall if I've ever identified one in the field. Just another reason to keep on birding!


  1. @Kerri - thanks for stopping by Kerri. I'm secretly hoping that one day the different Juncos will be split into different species. I track them in eBird separately too...just in case.

  2. What's that red band across the junco's chest? I just became aware of the different groups of dark-eyed juncos. I took a photo of one at my feeder and identified it as a dark-eyed adult brown female! From the distance they had all looked the same to me, and white birds that appear at the feeder in the winter. But now that you mention it they certainly look like different species.

  3. @hilke I added the red bands on the chests to emphasize the concave vs. convex bibs on the two different subspecies of Junco. Which subspecies are you getting at your place?

  4. Aha! I am so dense! We are getting the slate-colored junco. The other day I photographed a female brown slate-colored junco - the first one I have ever actually identified. I put a photo on my Facebook page - but I guess you are not on Facebook? - It's a convenient way of exchanging information quickly.

  5. Nice info on the juncos there. I used to see several varieties when I went to Madera canyon. Then I would have to pull out my bird guide to remember and distiguish them all: pink-sided, oregon, red-backed, gray-headed, and yellow-eyed. The only variety I have not seen is the white-winged. We do get the slate-colored here all the time. I have at least 6-10 on a regular basis. Some of them are brownish. I have never noticed or heard of the convex/concave detail you have pointed out. Nice tip!