Dark-eyed Junco

8 Birds that look like Juncos – (Photos, ID & Info)

In the Northern Hemisphere, juncos are a common winter bird. They are typically seen during their breeding season from March to July and then again in the fall. During migration, they can be found anywhere from southern Canada to Central America. 

There are many birds that have a similar appearance to the Junco. In this article, we will look at 8 different species of bird that may be mistaken for Juncos in North America.

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe
Image by Anita Lynn from Pixabay

The Eastern Phoebe is a small songbird that often lives near water. The difference is that the phoebe is mostly brownish-gray with white underparts, with a longer thinner bill than that of the Junco. Dark-eyed Juncos are lighter gray and slightly larger than the Eastern phoebe, with a short and thick pink seed cracking bill.

Eastern Phoebe prefers habitats with open water, ponds, marshes, and wet meadows. This includes areas such as shorelines, creeks, and streams. Dark-eyed Juncos typically prefer more heavily forested areas and are found in coniferous forests.

  • Length: 4.5-6.7″ in. (11.5-17 cm)
  • Weight: 0.6-0.7 oz. (16-21.5 g)
  • Wingspan: 9.8-11.4″ in. (25-29 cm)

Black Phoebe

The Black Phoebe often gets mistaken for the junco because of its size and shape. The main difference is that the Black Phoebe has a charcoal gray upper body and chest, with a slightly bigger head, and a slim long black bill. Whereas the Junco has a slate-gray upper body, white belly, and a short and thick pink seed cracking bill.

Black Phoebe live in wetland areas that contain vegetation such as grasses, shrubs, and other plants that grow near water sources or at the edge of streams and lakes. Dark-eyed Juncos typically prefer more heavily forested areas and are found in coniferous forests.

  • Length: 6.1-7.08″ in. (15.5-18 cm)
  • Weight: 0.53-0.78 oz. (15-22 g)
  • Wingspan: 10.4-11.02″ in. (26.5-28 cm)

Say’s Phoebe

Say's Phoebe
Image by jimsimons from Pixabay

Say’s Phoebe and Dark-eyed Junco: What’s the Difference? Phoebes are small birds with a brownish-gray upper body, reddish-brown belly, and a gray breast. They have a long, thin black bill. The junco is also small, but has different features than the phoebe. The junco has a slate-gray upper body, white belly, and short thick pink seed cracking bill. 

Say’s Phoebes are typically found near open areas with low vegetation, such as prairies and meadows. Dark-eyed Juncos typically prefer more heavily forested areas and are found in coniferous forests.

  • Length: 4.5″-7.5″ in. (11.4-19.1 cm)
  • Weight: 0.75 oz. (21 g)
  • Wingspan: 13.5″ in. (34 cm)

Gray Catbird

Gray Catbird
Image by Jack Bulmer from Pixabay

Many people have a hard time telling the difference between catbirds and dark-eyed juncos. The Gray Catbird is slightly bigger, and differ in coloration. Catbirds have an almost all gray plumage, whereas the junco has a gray upper body and a white belly. Another way to tell them apart is by looking at their bills: catbirds have long black thick bills, while the junco has short and thick pink seed cracking bills. 

The Gray Catbird’s habitat includes thickets, woodlands, scrubby fields, and suburban gardens with mature trees nearby. Dark-eyed Juncos typically prefer more heavily forested areas and are found in coniferous forests.

  • Length: 8.1″-9.8″ in (20.5-25 cm)
  • Weight: 0.8-2.0 oz (23.2-56.5 g)
  • Wingspan: 8.5″-​12″ in (21.6-30.5 cm)

Northern Mockingbird

The Northern Mockingbird and the dark-eyed junco look similar, but there are some differences. The mockingbird is bigger than the junco and also has a gray upper body with white underparts and a thin black bill with yellow eyes whereas the dark-eyed junco has black eyes with a short thick pink seed cracking bill, and is a bit smaller in overall size.

Northern Mockingbirds are usually found in the open country while dark-eyed juncos can be found in heavily forested habitats. 

  • Length: 7.9-10.4 in (20-26.5 cm)
  • Weight: 1.6-2.0 oz (45-58 g)
  • Wingspan: 11.8-13.8 in (30-35 cm)

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California Towhee

The California Towhee is a bird that looks very similar to the Junco. It is found in North America from southern Canada to northern Mexico, excluding most of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains (with some exceptions).

It’s a bit bigger than the Junco, and has brownish-gray plumage throughout, with an orange-brown streaked breast, whereas the Junco has a slate gray color with white belly and breast. There are also some differences in their habitats as well: The towhee prefers thickets or brushy areas while juncos like forested areas, near water sources. 

  • Length: 7.9-10.0 in (20-25.5 cm)
  • Weight: 1.3-2.4 oz (37-67 g)
  • Wingspan: 11.5 in (​29.2 cm)

Clark’s Nutcracker

Clark's Nutcracker
Image by i_love_animals from Pixabay

Clark’s Nutcracker is about 4 inches bigger than the Junco, and has a gray plumage with black wings and white wing patches and a long thick black bill whereas the Junco is a small plump bird with a gray upper body and a white lower chest and belly with a short thick pink seed cracking bill.

The Clark’s Nutcracker lives in high altitude pine forests from Canada to Northern Mexico, while the Junco lives at lower altitudes in deciduous or mixed woodlands.

  • Length: 10.2-12 in (26-30.5 cm)
  • Weight: 3.7-5.7 oz (106-161 g)
  • Wingspan: 24 in (61 cm)​​​​​​​

Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhees are a bit larger than Juncos, and have black upper body and rust-colored flanks, with a black bill, whereas the Junco has a gray upper parts with a white lower chest, belly and pink bill. These two birds are not to be confused as they look similar because of their shape and size but have different colors.

Spotted Towhees resemble Juncos in some ways such as being small ground dwelling birds​​​​​​​. The Spotted Towhee is primarily found in forested areas east of the Rocky Mountains while the Junco can be found throughout North America deciduous or mixed woodlands. 

  • Length: 6.7-8.5 in (17-21.5 cm)
  • Weight: 1.2-1.7 oz (33-49 g)
  • Wingspan: 11.2 in (​28.5 cm)

Related Post: How to Attract Towhee to your backyard?

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Dark-eyed Juncos invasive?​​​​​​​

The Dark-eyed junco is a small songbird that is native to North America. They are common throughout the United States and Canada, but they have also been found in Great Britain, Ireland, Sweden, and New Zealand. The population has increased dramatically over the past few decades due to habitat loss from urbanization. Many experts believe that these birds should be classified as invasive because their range has expanded so quickly and they can cause problems for other species of birds.

Do Juncos eat from bird feeders?

Juncos are common winter visitors to bird feeders. They have an appetite for sunflower seeds, and their inquisitive nature makes them easy targets for the well-placed perch. Junco’s affinity for feeding from bird feeders is not limited to those that contain seed; they will eat fruit as well, which may be offered in a suet cage or on a tray of ground up apples placed near the bottom of a tree trunk.​​​​​​​

Do Juncos reuse their nests?

The answer is yes. Juncos build new nests each year to lay eggs and raise chicks, but they sometimes use the same nest for several years in a row. This behavior is called site fidelity, which means that an animal returns to the same place repeatedly over time. The reason that juncos return to the same nest could be because it provides good protection from predators or harsh weather conditions such as wind and rain.​​​​​​​

Are Juncos rare?

Juncos are rare if you don’t live in the right habitat to see them. However, if you want to spot a junco, you should go for a hike through thick forests with lots of trees or visit wetland areas near water sources.​​​​​​​

Do Juncos eat black oil sunflower seeds?

Black oil sunflower seeds are a favorite among many bird species. Some of the birds that enjoy eating these seeds include juncos, house sparrows, cardinals, and finches.​​​​​​​

Do Juncos use birdhouses?

Juncos typically don’t use birdhouses, but they can be attracted to the warmth, and shelter that a birdhouse provides during the winter months. ​​​​​​​

Do Juncos like mealworms?

Mealworms might be one of their favorite snacks because they’re a good source of protein and fat that provides energy for the junco’s high metabolism and long flights during migration.​​​​​​​

Do Juncos eat suet?

The answer is that they don’t. Juncos are often found in areas where suet is hung out for birds to feed on, but this doesn’t mean that they eat it. In fact, these birds will only consume a small amount of suet when it’s available and then fly away to find other food sources. Juncos typically prefer seeds and berries as their main source of food​​​​​​​.