by Jacob Crider
The Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) is a boldly patterned and abundant sparrow native to the entire U.S and most of North America. They are mostly a dark slate-color with white chests and bright white outer tail feathers visible during flight. They may sometimes exhibit rufous coloration on their flanks and females are often browner in color than males.
While Dark-eyed Juncos are native and common in Kentucky, you can only see them here during fall, winter, and early spring months from about October to April. They migrate and breed in mixed woodlands in Canada, the Appalachian Mountains, areas of the Northeast, and out West. While overwintering here in Kentucky they prefer areas with coniferous and deciduous trees, although they seem to have a great affinity towards conifers here at CMNP. They feed on seeds and insects and are usually found foraging on the ground, hopping amongst leaf litter and grassy areas. They can be seen in small to medium sized flocks, quickly fluttering into nearby trees and thickets when disturbed.
Their light metallic chip calls can be heard during flight and their songs are normally heard during the breeding season.
Dark-eyed Juncos can be found throughout CMNP, but they can be seen best at our bird blind where they feed along the ground underneath the bird feeders. Many color variations such as the Pink-sided and Oregon are exhibited by Dark-eyed Juncos in North America, but the one usually encountered in Kentucky is the Slate-colored variety.