Monday, September 24, 2012

Oregon Junco

Dark-eyed Juncos breed in forests across Canada and the northern United States south into the Rocky and Appalachian mountains. Juncos winter across the midwestern and southern United States to northern Mexico. The species is abundant, with estimates of the total population thought to be 630 million individuals (Nolan et al. 2002).

With so many birds breeding over such a wide range, junco populations exhibit a great deal of variation. The result has been labeled a "turbulent taxonomic history" and a "nightmare for systematists" (Nolan et al. 2002). Until the 1970s, juncos were split into five species and a number of races. The American Ornithologists' Union currently lumps these species into one, the Dark-eyed Junco, with 15 races assigned to five "groups."

The photograph above is of a Dark-eyed Junco of the "Oregon" group from our travels to Olympia, Washington, last April. Note the angle of the white belly where it meets with the black breast and pink sides. This angle is sharp, not rounded. Oregon Juncos are sometimes reported in winter from Minnesota, but care must be used to eliminate the possibility of Junco hyemalis cismontanus, a brownish race of the "Slate-colored" Junco group, which often winter in Minnesota.

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