Dark-eyed Juncos are cute, there’s really no two ways about it. It’s some combination of the pink bill, the domed head, and, of course, the dark eyes that come together to make each individual of the species look something like a plush toy. But if you get to Arizona, and get high enough into the mountains outside of Tucson, you find the other junco, the evil junco with the evil eye that bores straight into your soul like a Moonraker laser.
This is the realm of the Yellow-eyed Junco. Tremble before him.
Up in the land of the Yellow-eyed Junco, it’s actually remarkably comfortable. The triple digits pounded away on the city of Tucson, but a few thousand feet higher it felt absolutely perfect, even if the altitude slowly squeezed the air out of your lungs if you pushed yourself too hard. Among the pines and oaks we found a mixed flock of residents and migrants including Mountain Chickadee, Grace’s Warbler, Painted Redstarts out the wazoo, and several Hermit Warblers, a lifer for me. The young birds confused the heck out of our group, because no one had them on their radar, but once we figured out the mystery the more gaudily adorned individuals came out to play. One more wood-warbler down.
But the juncos. Oh, the juncos.
They were everywhere, motoring around the parking lot like you’d expect juncos to do, but with that yellow eye you always felt like there was something nefarious going on. The juncos will mess you up given the opportunity . So don’t give it to them.
I didn’t personally witness any funny business while up among the juncos. So while their reputation for mayhem was not confirmed by me, I can confirm that they have a preternatural knack for turning away from the camera at the precise moment you get the focus and setting exactly right.
Now that, friends, is pure evil. Nothing less than what you’d expect from a bird like this.