There is considerable geographic color variation in this bird; to the extent it is only fairly recently that they have all been lumped together as one species: Junco hyemalis. The Dark-eyed Junco includes five forms that were once considered separate species:
- The "Slate-colored junco" is the grayest, found from Alaska to Texas and eastward. Its dark, sooty-gray back and hood, sides and tail contrast with its white belly...as seen at the top of this page and here.
- The Oregon junco" is boldly marked blackish and brown, with a distinct dark hood, and is found in the western half of the continent. This junco has gray-ish wings and tail, buffy sides and back but its hood is very dark…black.
- The "Gray-headed junco" has a reddish-brown back, gray sides and tail with a somewhat darker belly than the Oregon or Slate-colored juncos. The dark eyes really stand out on this bird and the head does not contrast with the belly. It lives in the central
- The "White-winged junco" has all gray upper parts, a white belly and sports white wing bars. It breeds only near the Black Hills of South Dakota.
- The "Pink-sided junco," a pale version of the Oregon junco, living in the northern Rocky Mountains. The head and breast are medium gray with a brownish back and wings; showing pinkish or pale cinnamon-colored flanks with a white belly.
But just to keep things interesting I’m sure, there are also hybrids. While apparently Red-backed and Yellow-eyed juncos do not mix…Slate-colored and Oregon juncos do. They call the results of that inter-breeding a Cassiar junco. I’ve also read that someone banded an unusual Slate-colored Junco…with bold white wing bars! Good luck with that!
Photos from Wikipedia except for the two graciously contributed, with permission, by Bill Schmoker. You can find Schmoker's Blog here, and more of his beautiful photography here. Thanks, Bill!