Some Notes on Juncos

Wickersham's Conscience

Juncos are a very common bird, but they also represent one of the great ornithological puzzles. Depending on who you talk to, there are between three and twelve species. The number of species depends on whether you think the confusing color patterns represent color and song variations on one species or separate species. As Birds of North America puts it,

The phylogenetic relationships of all junco taxa clearly involve more complex questions than can be answered by presently available evidence.

That’s something of an understatement. A few photos may illustrate the challenges.

Dark-eyed Junco, "Slate-colored" variety, Fairbanks, Alaska Dark-eyed Junco, “Slate-colored” variety, Fairbanks, Alaska

If you live in Alaska, this is the Junco you see most often. The whole back and chest is dark gray, with a sharply defined white belly. Dark-eyed and pale, pinkish-billed, it shows white outer tail feathers in flight.

Dark-eyed Junco, "Oregon" variety, Boise, Idaho Dark-eyed Junco, “Oregon” variety, Boise, Idaho

But this is a Dark-eyed Junco, too…

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