Meet the Snowbirds: 8 Cool Facts About Junco Birds

Discover facts about winter's favorite visitor: dark-eyed junco! Learn how long a junco bird lives. Also see why they are called snowbirds.

1. Juncos Are Nicknamed Snowbirds

dark-eyed juncoCourtesy Christine Fagerlie
Junco birds thrive in the cold, traveling south to the upper United States in the winter.

The dark eyed junco has a cute nickname: snowbird! This is because a junco bird seems to bring snowy winter weather on its wings as it migrates. In the colder months they travel in flocks of 15 to 25 from northern evergreen forests to backyards all over the U.S.

Learn what a dark eyed junco looks like and sounds like. Oh, and you can’t miss out on these adorable junco bird pictures.

2. Their Namesake Bird is Endangered

Named for its natural habitat of Guadalupe Island, the Guadalupe junco is now endangered. Unique to Mexico, there may be fewer than 100 left in the world.

Junco vs chickadee: Here’s how to tell the difference.

3. One Junco Bird Species Has Many Variations

The subspecies of dark eyed juncos fall into five major groups: gray-headed, Oregon, pink-sided, slate-colored and white-winged.

Psst—did you know juncos are in the sparrow family?

4. Juncos Have a Long Lifespan

junco birdCourtesy Jack Dean

Banding records show that a dark eyed junco bird can live to be 11 years old. Can you guess how long hummingbirds live?

5. Look for Juncos on the Ground

Juncos make their home in woodland areas. Sure, they’ve got wings, but juncos prefer to hop around the forest floor. They spend as much as 65% of their time on the ground. Discover the best way to attract birds that don’t visit bird feeders.

6. Cold Weather Doesn’t Influence Junco Bird Migration

Beginning in 1924, biologist William Rowan’s research on dark eyed juncos revealed that these migratory birds respond more to changes in daylight than temperature. Learn why some birds migrate and others don’t.

7. Juncos Puff Up in Winter

slate colored juncoCourtesy Cindy Nelson

When it’s cold outside, juncos grow down jackets. The coat of feathers on a junco bird is 30% heavier in winter than in summer.

8. Juncos Have a Favorite Birdseed

Attract juncos to your backyard ground feeders with millet. This small seed comes in two types, red and white.

Next, learn how to identify the American tree sparrow and chipping sparrow.

Kirsten Schrader
Kirsten has more than 15 years of experience writing and editing birding and gardening content. As content director of Birds & Blooms, she leads the team of editors and freelance writers sharing tried-and-true advice for nature enthusiasts who love to garden and feed birds in their backyards. Since joining Birds & Blooms 17 years ago, Kirsten has held roles in digital and print, editing direct-to-consumer books, running as many as five magazines at a time, and managing special interest publications. Kirsten has traveled to see amazing North American birds and attended various festivals, including the Sedona Hummingbird Festival, the Rio Grande Bird Festival, The Biggest Week in American Birding Festival, and the Cape May Spring Festival. She has also witnessed the epic sandhill crane migration while on a photography workshop trip to Colorado. Kirsten has participated in several GardenComm and Outdoor Writers Association of America annual conferences and is a member of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology. When she's not researching, writing, and editing all things birding and gardening, Kirsten is enjoying the outdoors with her nature-loving family. She and her husband are slowly chipping away at making their small acreage the backyard of their dreams.