Junco vs. Chickadee: What Are the Differences?

Ornithologists have long been fascinated by the differences between Juncos and Chickadees. The two birds are similar in size and shape, but they exhibit a number of distinct differences. 

So, what are the differences between Junco vs. Chickadee? The most obvious difference is the appearance of the head and chest. Juncos tend to have grey upper parts, while Chickadees sport a black cap with white stripes on either side.

Follow this article to learn more about these two birds.


What Is a Junco?

Juncos are one of the common birds of America. Their name came from the Spanish word Juncus which means rushes. In winter, you can find these beautiful creatures around your house, which is why it has a fantastic nickname, the snowbird.

The genus of juncos is named the same, Junco. Ornithologists are always in a dilemma about this genus of birds. To some, the genus Junco only has three species. They divide all the other species in these three species into subspecies. 

But some consider all the species as individuals, and according to them, there are twelve species of Juncos.

Unlike other birds, they graze on the land. During the winter, they feed in large groups. A favorite food source for these pinkish beaked birds is seeds that have fallen on the ground, bugs, and worms. They normally build their nests on the ground or at the base of a bush or shrub, where they are challenging to find.

You already know that they are found in the winter season mostly. The majority of these birds migrate north to breed in the fall, with a few remaining in the spring around the Northwest and Northeast beaches.


Junco Species and Their Characteristics

The most common species of Junco is the dark-eyed one. Dark-eyed juncos have fifteen subspecies split into six different groups. A few of these subspecies are further subdivided into subgroups. The Oregon group, often known as the brown-backed group, is subdivided into eight subgroups.

Regardless of the fact that they are all members of the same species, several of these birds have radically diverse appearances. 

The upper part of dark-eyed Juncos is slate-grey. Dark-eyed Junco’s beak is a bit pinkish. And they have grey chests. The markings on males are often darker and more pronounced than those on females. In size, the female dark-eyed juncos are a bit bigger than the males.

The Oregon or brown-backed juncos are a subspecies of dark-eyed Juncos. Their backs are chestnut colored. The feathers have rust colors. Oregon dark-eyed junco has a totally different body color in comparison with the slate-colored one.

Among many subspecies, one is the white-winged one. Their wing feathers are unique, and no other juncos have feathers like them. A notable feature of the pink-sided Junco is its pinkish sides, which separate it from the other juncos. 

The plumage of juvenile juncos is lighter in color than that of adults, and they may have streaks in it.


What Is a Chickadee?

The second bird of our discussion. Another widespread bird from America. They can be found in both Americas but predominantly in North America. Chickadees are small, cute birds from the genus Poecile. However, they are not called Chickadee everywhere.

The other birds of this genus are called tits, and in America, they are called Chickadees. There are fifteen species in this genus, and among them, only seven are known as chickadees. Chickadees are the state birds of Massachusetts and Maine.


Chickadee Species and Their Characteristics

Birds in the world have unique behavior. When the season changes, they migrate from one place to another. But Chickadees do not follow this behavior that much. The black-capped Chickadee does not even bother to migrate.

This black-capped Chickadee is the most famous and widespread of the chickadees, and it is the one that most closely resembles different species of juncos. Their head has black and white stripes. The back is grey colored with black stripes. 

Carolina chickadees are kind of similar to the black-capped ones. One difference is that the black-capped Chickadee prefers higher altitudes than the Carolina chickadee.

Some of the chickadees have excellent spatial memory. In winter, they try to retrieve the foods they have stored before. They can do so because of their spatial memory.


Junko vs. Chickadee: Similarities and Differences

Do Junko and Chickadee have similarities from before? Well, they have. These two birds are in the same order, Passeriformes. Chickadees and dark-eyed juncos might appear to be highly identical to one another. 

The feathers of these two birds are a mixture of gray and white hues in various shades. They are often the same size and form as one another. When it comes to resemblance with Black-capped chickadees, Oregon or brown-backed juncos stand out the most. They are part of the dark-eyed Junco’s group.

To put it mildly, distinguishing between these two birds is puzzling. Let’s look at the similarities and differences they have between them.

  • Body Color and Features

Let us start with the outer look of these birds. At first, it might look confusing. But we will slowly reveal everything. After reading this, when we give you two birds, you can identify them in a snap.

First comes the Junco. You already know that dark-eyed Junco has grey color in its upperparts. They also have grey colors on their chests. 

Secondly, the Chickadee. Something on their head makes the black-capped Chickadee recognizable. It is a black cap that has white stripes on both sides. The color of the wings is usually matte gray in color.

It was aforementioned that the dark-eyed juncos have many subspecies, and they are all different from each other, even though they belong to the same species. 

As it turns out, some of these subspecies share certain traits with the Chickadee. Oregon group resembles the most. The Slate-colored Junco of the dark-eyed junco group does not match the black-capped Chickadee.

Like the black-capped Chickadee, the pink-sided group of dark-eyed juncos also have a hat on their heads. Not only them but also some other subspecies of dark-eyed Junco has this black hat on their heads.

Even Carolina chickadees and Mexican chickadees have hats like black-capped chickadees. Now, this hat created the commotion. This means people identify juncos as chickadees because they all have hats.

Now, if you still cannot figure out how to do it, let us rewind a bit. Dark-eyed juncos have grey chests, but the black-capped chickadees do not. They have white color on their chest. And this is the most noticeable distinction between the two birds. 

Furthermore, the Chickadee’s body and flanks have light colors than the dark-eyed juncos. While the Chickadee is more delicate, the Junco is rounder and larger than the former.

  • Migration

Many birds from Siberia and the North Pole migrate to different places in winter. To find a better condition, birds even migrate a very long distance. But for our two contenders, this might not be true. 

One of them, the chickadees, is not fond of migration. And the most common species of them, the black-capped chickadees, do not migrate at all. If they do migrate, then it will happen in their own region. Maybe you will see them survive the harsh cold of mountains by migrating from there to land.

Junco does migrate. They also migrate to find food and survive the dangerous cold in the winter. The migration distance of the juncos is very short. But it is longer than the chickadees. Dark-eyed juncos of the southern USA are also not likely to migrate. These birds will, at best, go to Central America or Mexico.

  • Behavior and Breeding

We have talked about many things about these two birds, from their outer appearance to their migration, habitats, and more. An essential factor in differentiating one thing from another is behavior. Let us see what kind of behaviors these two birds have.

Juncos have a tendency to stay in hiding which is why they build their nests under the bushes, shrubs, or even under buildings. They even try to hide their nest with materials. But the chickadees make nests higher from the ground. These birds make holes in the tree or even make residence in the nest boxes.

The Black-capped Chickadee tries to show dominance during the breeding season. But these birds are rather social during the non-breeding season. 

The egg color of juncos is either a bit gray in color or might be pale-blue white. They lay spotted eggs, and the eggs are a bit sheen. The eggs of chickadees are primarily white and have reddish-brown dots on them.

  • Feeding

These two birds are omnivores with a wide range of food preferences. Juncos, especially the dark-eyed juncos, love to collect their food from the ground. On the other hand, the black-capped chickadees are frequently seen foraging from tree branches or shrubs.

But this is not it! These chickadees love to eat from the bird feeders, and they particularly enjoy suet. This is why you may find a lot of them in your gardens. The juncos also take food from feeders, but they prefer to collect the food from the ground.

  • Call

Chickadees’ naming happened uniquely. This bird is called for the sound it makes, which is pronounced chick-a-dee-dee-dee. However, the juncos are known for making tick noises that are higher in pitch and chip sounds that are also extremely high in pitch.

  • Size and Shape

It is difficult to understand the size of a bird from a distance and distinguish between different species when the birds are already small in size. Chickadees tend to be leaner and slenderer than dark-eyed juncos, which have a rounder, fluffier appearance. 

To confuse you more, not all dark-eyed juncos are larger than the chickadees. The Gray-headed group of dark-eyed juncos is smaller in size and resembles the chickadees.

A chickadee’s average height is 12-15 cm. The dark-eyed Junco’s average height is 13-17 cm. Dark-eyed juncos can weigh up to 30 grams, whereas chickadees can weigh only 14 grams.

Like other species in their genus, chickadees have thinner heads and body shapes. The color of chickadees’ beaks is dark. In comparison, the heads of juncos are bulkier and more erect, with short, pale-pink beaks that are faintly colored and lightly patterned.

Clearly, dark-eyed juncos are considerably larger than the black-capped chickadees. They weigh almost double that of the chickadees. Dark-eyed juncos are bigger and more robust, whereas Black-capped chickadees are thinner and more delicate.



Another commonality between these two birds is that they share almost similar habitats and are very much native to America. If I talk about the numbers, the winners might be the juncos, as they have more species and subspecies. But the chickadees only have seven species. 

These birds have extremely large populations and are on the IUCN Red List, but they have been classified as the least-concern species. However, dark-eyed juncos greatly exceed Black-capped chickadees in terms of population size.



It is already known that these two birds are from America. And both of these birds can live at high elevations. The dark-eyed juncos are likely to live in the forests of conifer woods. Black-capped chickadees can also live there and in seasonal forests. But they are more adapted to urban life.



Birds are beautiful; there is no doubt about that. There is nothing more soothing than hearing birds chirping when you are strolling on the streets in the morning. And these juncos and chickadees are undoubtedly the mesmerizers out there.

Next time, when you are going for a walk, take a camera with you. Find these birds and click photos of them. Come back home and try to find the differences between Junco vs. Chickadee by matching the attributes from this article. 


By Bird Moy

Hi, Bird Moy is the founder and CEO of . Im passionate about Blogging and I use this site as a platform to share my experiences, learnings, mistakes, and ideas.

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