Original description: Fringilla Oregana Townsend 1837
Taxonomic history at Avibase
Taxonomic history in AOU/AOS Check-list
AOU 1 (1886): Oregon Junco, Junco hyemalis oregonus
AOU 2 (1895): Oregon Junco, Junco hyemalis oregonus; Shufeldt’s Junco, Junco hyemalis shufeldti; Thurber’s Junco, Junco hyemalis thurberi; Point Pinos Junco, Junco hyemalis pinosus; Townsend’s Junco, Junco townsendi
AOU 3 (1910): Oregon Junco, Junco hyemalis oreganus; Shufeldt’s Junco, Junco hyemalis connectens; Thurber’s Junco, Junco hyemalis thurberi; Point Pinos Junco, Junco hyemalis pinosus; Montana Junco, Junco hyemalis montanus; Townsend’s Junco, Junco hyemalis townsendi
AOU 4 (1931): Oregon Junco, Junco oreganus oreganus; Shufeldt’s Junco, Junco oreganus shufeldti; Montana Junco, Junco oreganus montanus; Thurber’s Junco, Junco oreganus thurberi; Point Pinos Junco, Junco oreganus pinosus; Hanson Laguna Junco, Junco oreganus pontilis; Townsend’s Junco, Junco oreganus townsendi
AOU 5 (1957): Oregon Junco, Junco oreganus montanus, Junco oreganus mearnsi, Junco oreganus oreganus, Junco oreganus shufeldti, Junco oreganus thurberi, Junco oreganus pinosus, Junco oreganus pontilis, Junco oreganus townsendi
AOU 6 (1983): Dark-eyed Junco, Junco hyemalis [oreganus group]
AOU 7 (1998): Dark-eyed Junco, Junco hyemalis [oreganus group]
This and most other races of the Dark-eyed Junco appear to be resilient in the face of most conservation threats. As a ground-nesting resident of montane forest, the Oregon Junco may be more immediately susceptible to the negative effects of forest fire than some other populations, but even so it is unlikely to be severely affected on any but the most local of scales. That said, Breeding Bird Surveys between 1966 and 2010 indicated an annual 2.6% decline in Montana’s junco populations.
Behavior: Oregon Juncos are busy, gregarious ground-feeders, readily flocking in winter with sparrows, bluebirds, and goldfinches; when it is seen in the company of other junco “kinds,” the Oregon’s smaller size is often conspicuous.
Fairly tame at all seasons, Oregon Juncos feed quietly in short grass and fallen leaves, scratching and kicking through the duff in search of insects and seeds. They are especially fond of the hollows and crevices behind shallow tree roots, where food can be accumulated by the wind.
Oregon Juncos are also common feeder visitors in winter, from mid-elevations in sheltered mountain canyons down to urban parks and backyards in the southwest and on the Great Plains. Montane wintering birds rarely venture up into coniferous forest; in Arizona and New Mexico, this is the only junco regularly encountered in lowland desert washes.
Oregon Juncos are often noticeably small in flight. Flushed or startled birds are, like other juncos, noisy, swooping away to the accompaniment of metallic dzz flight calls and flashing the extensively white outer tail feathers on takeoff and on landing.
Males sing from tall bushes or at mid-height in trees, usually pines. The tail is slightly depressed and the neck slightly stretched, and the bill is usually opened and held just above the horizontal. Females’ short-range songs are given mostly while the birds are feeding on the ground.
Voice:Oregon Juncos have the same varied array of call notes as the other northerly Dark-eyed Juncos, including a dry dek and sharp, faintly buzzy tzit flushing and flight notes. The robot-like dew call often runs into a short series when perched birds are alert or stressed. The long song, given only by males, is a short tremolo of often rather loud, musical notes, sweeter than the song of most Chipping Sparrows and less vague and rambling than the song of the Orange-crowned Warbler, which it can otherwise resemble quite closely. Both male and female Dark-eyed Juncos also have a longer, more varied “short-range” song including “short whistles, trills, warbles, call notes… and other sounds.”
Detailed description and measurements drawn from standard reference works
Adult Junco hyemalis montanus: Central tail feathers slaty black. Outermost pair, rectrix 6, entirely white on both webs. Rectrix 5 usually entirely or mostly white on both webs, typically darker in females. Rectrix 4 usually entirely or mostly black on both webs, whiter or even pure white on outer web in a few males. Rectrix 3 black on both webs, a very few males showing a trace of white. Upper tail coverts and rump gray. Back rich brown without pronounced red tone, sometimes with grayish tinge. Scapulars gray. Primaries and secondaries blackish with paler gray edges. Outer webs of tertials mostly brownish. Greater and median coverts gray, the innermost with brown edges; rarely with white tips forming loose wing bars. Nape slaty gray, often with brownish tinge, but approaching blackish in some males.
Under tail coverts, vent, belly, and lowermost breast white. Flanks cinnamon, brighter in males. Upper breast and throat slaty gray, darker in some males, sharply set off from lower breast and flanks.
Crown slaty gray, approaching blackish in some males, often with grayish brown tinge. Ear coverts dark slaty gray. Lores somewhat darker blackish, but not strongly contrasting.
Tarsus and toes light pinkish brown. Bill pale pinkish white.
Juvenile Junco hyemalis montanus: Central tail feathers slaty black; outer two pairs entirely or mostly white. Upper tail coverts and rump gray with black streaks. Back dull brown with fine black streaks. Scapulars dull brown. Primaries and secondaries blackish with paler gray edges. Outer webs of tertials mostly brownish. Greater and median coverts gray with broad brown edges; rarely with white tips forming loose wing bars. Nape grayish brown with blackish streaks.
Under tail coverts, vent, belly, and lowermost breast whitish. Flanks, breast, and throat buffy white with blackish streaking, heaviest on breast.
Crown and sides of head grayish brown with black streaks.
Tarsus and toes dull pinkish brown. Bill dull grayish pink.
Length 133-152 mm (5.2-6.0 inches)
Wing chord 73-83 mm (2.9-3.3 inches)
Tail 60-71 mm (2.4-2.8 inches)