Vol. 2, No. 4 – The Slate-Colored Junco

Slate-colored Red Junco of Birds Illustrated by Color Photography, 1897

Slate-colored Red Junco of Birds Illustrated by Color Photography, 1897

From col. F. M. Woodruff. Copyrighted by
Nature Study Pub. Co., 1897, Chicago.



LACK SNOWBIRD, in most of the United States and in Ontario, where it is a common resident, and White Bill, are names more often applied to this species of Sparrow than the one of Junco, by which it is known to ornithologists. It nests in the mountains of northern Pennsylvania, New York, and New England, and is a resident throughout the year in northeastern Ohio, and in Michigan. In all probability, the Snowbird does not breed, even occasionally, anywhere within the limits of the state of Illinois, though individuals may in very rare instances be found several weeks after others have departed for the north, these having probably received some injury which prevents their migration. Prof. Forbes refers to such an instance, which came under his own observation. He saw on a tree in the edge of a wood, in the southern part of the state, an adult specimen of the Junco, and only one, which, he says, astonished him.

Mr. William L. Kells states that in Ontario this Junco selects a variety of places for nesting sites, such as the upturned roots of trees, crevices in banks, under the sides of logs and stumps, a cavity under broken sod, or in the shelter of grass or other vegetation. The nest is made of dry grasses, warmly and smoothly lined with hair. The bird generally begins to nest the first week of May, and nests with eggs are found as late as August. A nest of the Junco was found on the rafters of a barn in Connecticut.

Almost any time after the first of October, little excursion parties of Juncos may be looked for, and the custom continues all winter long. When you become acquainted with him, as you surely will, during his visit, you will like him more and more for his cheerful habits. He will come to your back door, and present his little food petition, very merrily indeed. He is very friendly with the Chick-a-dee, and they are often seen together about in the barn-yards, and he even ventures within the barn when seeds are frozen to the ground.

“The Doctor,” in Citizen Bird, tells this pretty story of his winter pets:

“My flock of Juncos were determined to brave all weathers. First they ate the seeds of all the weeds and tall grasses that reached above the snow, then they cleaned the honeysuckles of their watery black berries. When these were nearly gone, I began to feed them every day with crumbs, and they soon grew very tame. At Christmas an ice storm came, and after that the cold was bitter indeed. For two days I did not see my birds; but on the third day, in the afternoon, when I was feeding the hens in the barn-yard, a party of feeble, half-starved Juncos, hardly able to fly, settled down around me and began to pick at the chicken food. I knew at a glance that after a few hours more exposure all the poor little birds would be dead. So I shut up the hens and opened the door of the straw-barn very wide, scattered a quantity of meal and cracked corn in a line on the floor, and crept behind the door to watch. First one bird hopped in and tasted the food; he found it very good and evidently called his brothers, for in a minute they all went in and I closed the door upon them. And I slept better that night, because I knew that my birds were comfortable. The next afternoon they came back again. I kept them at night in this way for several weeks, and one afternoon several Snowflakes came in with them.” (See Snowflakes.)

Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) (Junco hyemalis hyemalis) female WikiC

Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) (Junco hyemalis hyemalis) female WikiC


JUNCOJunco hyemalis. Other name: “Snowbird.”

Range—North America; breeds from northern Minnesota to northern New York and southward along the summits of the Alleghenies to Virginia; winters southward to the Gulf States.

Nest—Of grasses, moss, and rootlets, lined with fine grasses and long hairs, on or near the ground.

Eggs—Four or five, white or bluish white, finely or evenly speckled or spotted, sometimes heavily blotched at the larger end with rufous-brown.

Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) by Ian

Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon) (Junco hyemalis) by Ian

Lee’s Addition:

And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen. (John 21:25 KJV)

Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis dorsalis) WikiC

Dark-eyed Junco (Grey-headed) (Junco hyemalis dorsalis) WikiC

What a neat story about helping the Juncos out of the cold. The Junco the writer is referring to a subspecies  the Dark-eyed Junco. The Slate-colored Junco has 3 subspecies of the Dark-eyed, the hyemalis, carolinensis, and the cismontanus. The photo at top is more of the Dark-eyed dominate species. There are over 15 subspecies of Dark-eyed Juncos.

The Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) is the best-known species of the juncos, a genus of small grayish American sparrows. This bird is common across much of temperate North America and in summer ranges far into the Arctic. With shorter wings, they are more prone to stay during the winters and not migrate. If so, it would only be short distances. They are members of the Emberizidae – Buntings, New World Sparrows & Allies Family

Adults generally have gray heads, necks, and breasts, gray or brown backs and wings, and a white belly, but show a confusing amount of variation in plumage details. The white outer tail feathers flash distinctively in flight and while hopping on the ground. The bill is usually pale pinkish.

Males tend to have darker, more conspicuous markings than the females. The Dark-eyed Junco is 5.1 to 6.9 in (13 to 17.5 cm) long and has a wingspan of 7.1 to 9.8 in (18 to 25 cm). Juveniles often have pale streaks and may even be mistaken for Vesper Sparrows (Pooecetes gramineus) until they acquire adult plumage at 2 to 3 months. But junco fledglings’ heads are generally quite uniform in color already, and initially their bills still have conspicuous yellowish edges to the gape, remains of the fleshy wattles that guide the parents when they feed the nestlings.

The song is a trill similar to the Chipping Sparrow’s (Spizella passerina), except that the Red-backed Junco’s song is more complex, similar to that of the Yellow-eyed Junco (Junco phaeonotus). The call also resembles that of the Black-throated blue warblers, which is a member of the New World Warbler family. Calls include tick sounds and very high-pitched tinkling chips.

All sounds provided by xeno-canto.org.

Junco hyemalis hyemalis – Call

Junco hyemalis hyemalis – Song

Dark-eyed Junco Junco (hyemalis carolinensis) ©Flickr Don Faulkner

Dark-eyed Junco Junco (hyemalis carolinensis) ©Flickr Don Faulkner

Dark-eyed Junco Junco (hyemalis carolinensis) by Don Faulkner

Junco hyemalis carolinensis – Call

Junco hyemalis carolinensis – Song


Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited

The above article is an article in the monthly serial for October 1897 “designed to promote Knowledge of Bird-Live.” These include Color Photography, as they call them, today they are drawings. There are at least three Volumes that have been digitized by Project Gutenberg.

To see the whole series of – Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited


(Information from Wikipedia and other internet sources)

Next Article – The Kingbird

The Previous Article – The Snowflake


Wordless Birds