Dark-eyed Junco, Junco hyemalis


Dark-eyed Junco
The juncos are year-round residents in our garden, where they have nested on the ground and at least once in a hanging flower-pot (see below). This species, widely-distributed in North America, is divided into several different types, formerly recognized as four different species in the US: Oregon, Slate-colored, Gray-headed, and White-winged. In the SF Bay Area, we have the Oregon type, with the occasional Slate-colored. Male Oregon juncos have a darker and more solid-colored hood than Oregon females, though the distinction is not always sharp.
 


Dark-eyed Junco


Dark-eyed Junco
This female Oregon is carrying a moth to the nest to feed her young birds; the hood of the female, see above and below, has more brown feathers mixed in with the dark gray. The juvenile, below,  being fed by its mother, is brown and striped all over.


Dark-eyed Juncos


Dark-eyed Juncos
Junco nestlings form a feathered carpet on the bottom of the neatly woven cup nest in a hanging flower pot of geraniums in our back yard. Juncos also nest on the ground, and have done so in our star-jasmine ground cover. The five visible eyes in this picture show the number of young birds crammed together in this nest; Birds of North America reports that normal clutch size for the species varies from three to five. The striped juvenal plumage is fully developed, indicating that these young birds are ready to leave the nest. And indeed they did early on the morning after this photo was taken, which we estimated to have been the eleventh day after the birds hatched.
 

Dark-eyed Junco
The Slate-colored, shown above and below, is the most widespread of the Dark-eyed Junco types, found throughout the United States except the arid Southwest. This type shows little or no contrast between head and body color. Males like the bird below, photographed in Alaska, are more uniformly dark gray, while females show more brown; I believe the bird above is a female. This Slate-colored Junco is common in California north of San Francisco Bay, including coastal Sonoma County where this bird was photographed.


Dark-eyed Junco


Dark-eyed Junco
The Pink-sided type of Dark-eyed Junco, shown above, winters in New Mexico, eastern Arizona and west Texas, and nests mostly in Montana and Wyoming. The hood is relatively pale gray, with pronounced dark lores, and the back and flanks are extensively pinkish. Before the four former junco species were lumped under the single designation Dark-eyed Junco, the Pink-sided was sometimes considered a fifth species, but more often was treated as a subspecies of the Oregon Junco.


Dark-eyed Junco
The Gray-headed type, shown above, also winters in the Southwest, but it nests further south than the Pink-sided, mostly in Utah and Colorado. The well-defined rufous mantle and the absence of color on the flanks distinguish it from the Pink-sided in appearance. The Gray-headed bird below, photographed in Chihuahua, Mexico, shows a rufous patch on the crown that may be an individual anomaly, as I have not found it described in the literature. Gray-headed Dark-eyed Juncos overlap in range with the Yellow-eyed Junco, recognized as a separate species, in southeastern Arizona and down into Mexico, and their plumage is quite similar to that of the Yellow-eyed.


Dark-eyed Junco