Yellow-eyed Junco

Junco phaeonotus

  • Version: 1.1 — Published July 17, 2018
  • Kim A. Sullivan

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Figure 1. Distribution of the Yellow-eyed Junco.
Definitive Basic male Yellow-eyed Junco.

Head and uppermost back medium gray; lower back and scapulars rufous. Lores and area extending back to and encircling eye black. Upperwing median coverts tinged rufous on outer webs and greater coverts gray with bright rufous bases to inner webs, forming extension of rufous patch from scapulars on closed wing. Chin, throat, upper breast, sides, and flanks paler gray than rest of head and tinged olive, with stronger olive-buff tinge on flanks; lower breast, belly, and undertail coverts pale grayish white. The uniform, good-quality wing feathers and dark, gray-egded primary coverts indicate Definitive Basic (as opposed to Formatve) Plumage and the bright rufous back, black lores, and gray head and breast (lacking olive or brown) indicate a male.

© Heather Pickard , Arizona , United States , 27 February 2013

The Yellow-eyed Junco occurs in Transition and Boreal Zones in the mountains from the southwestern United States to Guatemala and is resident throughout much of its range. In southern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico, pairs maintain all-purpose breeding territories and then migrate to lower elevations and form winter flocks with the Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis). These relatively confiding birds forage on the ground and are easily seen, often frequenting campsites and picnic areas. In southern Arizona, pairs remain together throughout the breeding period, producing up to 3 successful broods per year. During the breeding period, males are often heard singing their multipart, warbler-like song from high atop conifers.

Yellow-eyed Junco is locally abundant, sedentary, and philopatric, and the species adapts well to captivity. These traits make it an exceptional species for behavioral studies, and its behavior and life history are reasonably well understood. Songs of the Yellow-eyed Junco, with their 2 to 3 parts and multiple trills, are highly variable within populations. This species was featured in classic studies on individual variation in song (1) and song development (2). A series of studies on the effects of flock size on behavior and individual trade-offs among foraging, vigilance, and aggression were based on winter flocks of the Yellow-eyed Junco in southern Arizona (3, 4, 5, 6). Growth, energy expenditure, and time allocation are well understood in this species from studies conducted over the annual cycle in southern Arizona (7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13). In most passerine species, young birds are difficult to find once they leave the nest, and consequently little is known about fledgling and juvenile life history stages. Studies on mortality patterns, acquisition of foraging skills, energy expenditure, and time allocation of immatures has made a valuable contribution to our understanding of fledging and juvenile passerines (14, 15, 16, 12, 7, 9, 10). To date, most studies of behavior, ecology, and physiology of the Yellow-eyed Junco have been carried out in southern Arizona at the northern extent of its range. It is not known whether these populations are representative of populations throughout the range of the species.

Recommended Citation

Sullivan, K. A. (2018). Yellow-eyed Junco (Junco phaeonotus), version 1.1. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.