Bird Database

Dark-eyed Junco

(Junco hyemalis)

State of the Birds
At a Glance



Short distance


Strongly Decreasing


Predation, Collisions, Habitat Loss

Conservation Actions

Maintain a bird-friendly yard

Dark-eyed Junco

(Junco hyemalis)

Dark-eyed Juncos are sometimes called “snowbirds” because most New Hampshire residents only see them in winter. While they are certainly a fixture of feeding stations and weedy thickets from November through April, in much of the state they are also a common nesting bird as well. All you need to do is go north or up in elevation, to forests dominated by spruce or fir, to find these tidy gray sparrows the rest of the year as well. At high elevations in the White Mountains they might even be the most abundant species. Juncos generally leave their forested breeding habitats in winter, although they may remain nearby.

Or do they? A researcher in western Massachusetts studied the make-up of junco populations over the course of two years and found that the birds showed a mix of migratory strategies. By marking birds with unique colored leg bands, he was able to determine when individuals arrived and left as the seasons changed. Some birds were only there in winter, meaning they likely bred farther north, while those that nested locally tended to depart in the fall. There were also a handful of juncos that stuck around all year. Furthermore, the juncos that were common in the depth of winter tended to depart in March, to be replaced by different birds working their way north. In other words, the juncos you see at your feeders are probably a constantly shifting mix of birds moving north or south at different times of year, and – if you’re located in breeding habitat – perhaps a few that hardly move at all.

As the days start getting noticeably longer in late winter, local juncos start to sing: a song best described as a monotonous musical trill. It is best to commit this song to memory before April, when two other trilling birds arrive in New Hampshire and overlap with juncos. First to arrive is the Pine Warbler, which is the most musical of the three, followed by the Chipping Sparrow with its longer and drier trill. It takes practice to separate these three, but April is the time to do this before the juncos start returning to their nesting grounds.

Seasonal Abundance

Relative abundance based on eBird data. Numbers indicate likelihood of finding this species in suitable habitat at a given time of year, not actual numbers encountered.

Dark-eyed Junco
Range Map

Information for the species profiles on this website was compiled from a combination of the sources listed below.

  • The Birds of New Hampshire. By Allan R. Keith and Robert B. Fox. 2013. Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological club No. 19.

  • Atlas of the Breeding Birds of New Hampshire. Carol R. Foss, ed. 1994. Arcadia Publishing Company and Audubon Society of New Hampshire

  • Birds of the World. Various authors and dates. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

  • Data from the Breeding Bird Survey

  • Data from the Christmas Bird Count