Terrible Photos of Oregon Juncos

Juncos! Who doesn’t love juncos? These fluffy little gray birds were one of the first species I learned to identify, always a winter fixture at our backyard birdfeeder when I was growing up in Ohio. But when I first cracked open a field guide, I was in for a bit of a surprise: juncos in other parts of the country looked very different from mine. In fact, what I know as the Dark-eyed Junco used to be considered about five different species before the “lumpers” got their hands on it. Back in the day, my plain-gray Ohio juncos would have been called Slate-colored (not Dark-eyed) Juncos to distinguish them from their various cousins around the country.

Which brings me to the birds that were in my backyard over the weekend.

Just like in Ohio, the arrival of juncos here is a sign that winter is approaching, but these aren’t “Slate-colored” Juncos, they’re (appropriately enough) “Oregon” Juncos. A common yard bird here, but a novelty to an easterner like me, and even though the lighting was bad I couldn’t resist taking a few terrible photos.

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See? I warned you, terrible. But at least you can see that they have a dark gray head that contrasts with the reddish-brown back, unlike “Slate-colored” Dark-eyed Juncos, which are just solid gray on top.

Despite all the junco lumping, there is still a second official junco species in the U.S., but you have to travel to the mountains of southeastern Arizona to see it: the Yellow-eyed Junco (exactly what it sounds like, and on my 2013 year list, thanks to my spring break Arizona trip). It’s entirely possible that the Oregon subspecies of Dark-eyed Junco could be split off again in the future, giving me one more tick for my list. In the meantime, I’ll just keep enjoying my yard birds!

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3 thoughts on “Terrible Photos of Oregon Juncos”

  1. I found your post on the Juncos topic page. They are among my favorite birds. We live in Central Iowa and usually get one or two Oregon Juncos in our yard in the winter. Our family list does not follow ABA rules, so I have three Junco subspecies on our list. :)

    My husband grew up in the Other Oregon. Whenever he mentions growing up in Oregon, people always exclaim how beautiful it is with all the green. He’d always have to correct their thinking a bit.

  2. Juncos? Love ’em. I find them so comical with their cartoon-like pinhead eyes. But I didn’t know there were so many varieties. I imagine those here in Ontario look similar to your Ohio ones.

  3. I have a few juncos visiting my yard right now; these seem to be the only sparrows I get in the fall after the Chipping Sparrows leave. Ours in Ottawa are the Slate-coloured Juncos, though occasionally we get the odd Oregon Junco. I saw an Oregon Junco in Jasper National Park (Alberta) last summer but wasn’t able to get a good pic. Come to think of it, I find all juncos difficult to photograph. They sure are nice to have around, though!

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