Common Name: Northern Junco
(Information for this species page was gathered in part, by Ms. Stephanie Hughes for Biology 220W at Penn State New Kensington in Spring 2009)
The Northern Junco is small, dark-colored sparrow with a long list of very descriptive common names including “dark-eyed junco,” “slate-colored junco,” “snow bird,” and “winter finch.” Image credit: Trisha M. Shears, Wikimedia Commons.
The Northern Junco is a very common bird at almost any winter bird feeder throughout the United States. It overwinters in almost all of the lower forty-eight states (and down into northern Mexico) and has an equally broad summer/breeding range across Canada and Alaska. Breeding may also occur in the mountains of the west, throughout New England, and down the Appalachian Mountains into northern Georgia. In Pennsylvania, in addition to winter populations of “bird feeder” Northern Juncos, we have observed dense, summer populations of this species in the mixed hardwood forests of the Allegheny National Forest in the northwest section of the state.
Mating and Reproduction
The female builds the nest all on her own. The nest can be located on the ground or on low, horizontally oriented tree branches. Near human habitations juncos may also build their nests in the crawl spaces underneath buildings or even inside the buildings themselves or on window ledges. The nest may be made of a variety of materials. Sometimes it is simply a gathering of pine needles and grasses, sometimes it has a foundation of sticks on top of which softer materials are layered. Nests take three to seven days to build and they are seldom re-used.
Northern juncos typically have two clutches of three to five eggs each breeding season although under optimal weather conditions, a third clutch is possible. The first clutch is laid in late spring (mid-April) and the second in mid-summer (mid-July). Eggs are incubated by the female for just under two weeks. Nestlings are actively fed by both parents and are able to fledge after another two weeks or so. Fledglings stay with and are dependent upon the parents for another three weeks. Males are very aggressively territorial during this reproductive period. Both male and female, though, will very vigorously defend their nest and nestlings.
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This page was last updated on
July 20, 2014