Junco hyemalis caniceps
Photo by Cynde and Alan Poleneck Chandler, Arizona
The Gray-headed race of the Dark-eyed Junco is one of the
least known birds of the coniferous forests of the southern Rocky Mountains
and the Great Basin Ranges (Terres, 1995). Also known as the Red-backed
Junco, it is one of the some 15 races of juncos that occur in North America.
A dweller of mountain tops from 7,000 feet to the tree line where they nest
from March through August, these birds prefer coniferous forests of Douglas
Fir, Ponderosa Pine, Blue Spruce, Lodgepole Pine, Englemann Spruce and also
Aspen, oak and Mountain Mahogany.
Their breeding range extends
from southern Idaho and Wyoming south through Colorado and Utah to Arizona
and New Mexico (Byers et al. 1995). After the nesting season, these birds
move to lower altitudes and plains south to Arizona, New Mexico, southern
California and into Mexico. Some individuals may occasionally or rarely be
observed in contiguous states.
Figure 1 - Gray-headed Junco
Figure 2 - Gray-headed Junco
A cup nest of grasses built by the female is placed on the
ground usually near a stump, rock, or tuft of grass, or among tree roots or
ferns. From 3 to 5 eggs incubated by the female hatch in 12-13 days. Young,
tended by both parents, fledge in another 10 to 13 day, and are partly
dependent for another 3 weeks.
Banding studies show that these birds live more than 8 years in the wild,
and individuals banded as nestlings returned to nest within 50 yards of
their natal nest (Terres, 1995).
The more southern Yellow-eyed Junco has a similar appearance, but is easily
distinguished from the Gray-headed form by its bright yellow eye.
They will come to feeders for bread-crumbs and mixtures of seeds offered on
*If you have a photo of a bird that you would
like to submit for consideration for the next bird of the month, please
email your photo to the CWBO web site
with a clear statement of permission to use your photo on our site.
Baicich, P. J. and C. J. O. Harrison. 1997. A Guide to the Nests, Eggs,
and Nestlings of North American Birds, 2nd ed. Academic Press. 347 pp.
Byers, C., J. Curxon, and U Olson. 1995. Sparrows and Buntings. A Guide
to Sparrows and Buntings of North America and the World. Ahoughton Mifflin
Co., New York. 334 Pp.
Rising, J. D. and D. D. Beadle. 1996. The Sparrows of the United States
and Canada. Academic Press, New York, NY. 365 Pp.
Stokes, D. and L. Stokes. 1996. Stokes Field Guide to Birds. Western
Region. Little, Brown and Co., New York, NY. 51 Pp.
Terres, J. K. 1995. The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American
Birds. Wings Books, New York, NY. 1109 Pp.
All images are courtesy of CWBO. All image copyrights are owned by CWBO.
Any use of these images must have permission of CWBO.