Optics Mag is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Read more.

Junco vs. Chickadee: How to Tell the Difference (With Pictures)

Last Updated on

If you like birds and often watch them fly, you might have seen two small birds: the Junco and Chickadee. They look similar, and many professionals confuse one bird with the other. If you look closely, these birds are somewhat different and have unique characteristics that make them special.

Primarily found in the US, both the Junco and Chickadee have apparent differences in size, morphology, location, and diet. In this article, we will compare them side-by-side, so you can spot these birds easily and learn more about them.

hummingbird divider

At a Glance

Junco vs Chickadee

Image Credit: Left (Junco) simardfrancois, Pixabay, Right – (Chickadee) edbo23, Pixabay

Here are some apparent differences you will notice in these birds at first glance.

Junco Breed
  • Origin: North America
  • Size: 5.1–6.9 inches
  • Lifespan: 3–11 years
  • Domesticated?: No
Chickadee Breed
  • Origin: North America, Europe, and Asia
  • Size: 2.4–5.9 inches
  • Lifespan: 3–7 years
  • Domesticated?: No

Junco Breed Overview

dark-eyed junco perched

Image Credit: JackBulmer, Pixabay

The Junco is a unique bird that has always been a topic of conflict among many experts. According to some people, this bird has 12 species, while a few think there are only three species of this bird, and the remainder are split into sub-species that aren’t related to the original bird.

One of the most common types is the dark-eyed Junco that is split into six categories, and each group has its own subspecies, adding up to almost 15 varieties of the same bird.

This article will primarily focus on the dark-eyed Juncos to draw a clear comparison. This is because these are the most easily found ones.

Characteristics & Appearance

dark-eyed junco on a wooden bench

Image Credit: austintude, Pixabay

The weight of a Dark-eyed Junco is between 0.5–1.06 ounces, and its length is also between 5.1–6.9 inches. There are many prominent features of this bird. For instance, it usually has a black patch on its head, and its neck or head features one solid color.

Female Juncos are usually larger and browner than males. Juvenile Juncos often have light-colored bodies and streaks on their plumage. A Junco doesn’t have a white streak on its face but has a white breast and a beautiful pink beak. This bird has a unique, puffy appearance that makes it look quite adorable.

When it comes to certain habits and characteristics, Juncos have a unique call. They produce high-pitched ticks and sounds and a highly distinctive click sound. The sound isn’t annoying to most people, so you won’t find issues having the birds around. They love to consume seeds and insects and forage for different foods.

Juncos do migrate but only travel a short distance. During winter, they usually migrate from Canada to North America. Certain Juncos found in the southwestern mountains hardly migrate and stay in the same region throughout the year.

Uses

Juncos are ground-nesting birds and are quite vulnerable to predators. However, they have many advantages, so most people usually find ways to attract them.

These birds usually limit the spread of lamb’s quarters, weeds, and sorrel. They do so by consuming the seeds. Juncos also control the population of various insects they like to consume during their breeding season.

hummingbird dividerChickadee Breed Overview

Chestnut-backed Chickadee

Image Credit: Anatoliy Lukich, Shutterstock

Chickadees are small birds from the genus Poecile. They are also often referred to as “tits” outside America. These birds are found in North America and some South and Central America.

Unlike Juncos, some Chickadees prefer staying in one place and avoiding migration. This is especially true for the most common Black-capped Chickadee.

Characteristics & Appearance

Chestnut-backed chickadee perched

Image Credit: Marv Vandehey, Shutterstock

The weight of a Chickadee varies between 0.3–0.4 ounces, and its size is also between 2.4–5.9 inches. The average wingspan of a chickadee is between 16–21 centimeters.

Most Chickadees feature a dark-colored patch and have a unique head cap. They also have a white breast with light-colored streaks on the bird’s face and small markings on its tail.

A Chickadee has a black or dark beak that makes the bird pretty beautiful. They also have specific characteristics. For instance, they are granivorous but feed on fruits, nuts, and seeds. They also create seed caches to survive during the colder months.

These are loud birds. Their name is derived from the sound they produce. Their call often sounds like “chick-a-dee-dee-dee.”

These birds are one of the cutest ones you will find. They also have unique, friendly personalities and are not scared of humans. They are quite curious and have a “confiding” behavior. 

Uses

Chickadees are excellent birds to have in your garden area. They often patrol your space and also eliminate insects that usually hibernate. These insects include katydids, plant lice, and moth eggs.

It is safe to say that these tiny birds are great pest controllers. When present in your garden, they help it to grow and thrive.

What Are the Differences Between the Junco and the Chickadee?

two Black-capped Chickadees perched

Image Credit: Steve Byland, Shutterstock

There are many differences between these two birds. Here we will discuss some apparent ones.

  • A Junco is a heavier bird that weighs between 0.5–1.06 ounces. A Chickadee, on the other hand, weighs between 0.3–0.4 ounces.
  • When it comes to size, the Junco is relatively longer than a Chickadee.
  • A Junco has a pink beak while a Chickadee has a black one. A Chickadee features light-colored streaks on its face, but a Junco lacks this feature. A Junco has a puffy appearance, while a Chickadee has a comparatively slim profile.
  • Chickadees don’t prefer migrating and like staying in their homes. On the other hand, Juncos typically migrate to warmer homes in cold months.
  • Both the birds produce distinct sounds. A Junco simply trills and chips, while a Chickadee creates a unique “chick-a-dee-dee-dee” sound.
  • Dark-eyed Juncos breed and live in North America. They are pretty flexible when it comes to heights. On the other hand, Chickadees like living in lush green forests and can easily fly at high elevations.
  • The feeding behavior of both these birds is different. Juncos feed from the ground level, whereas Chickadees feed from bushes and tree canopies.
  • Both birds have a high population. But you will come across more Juncos than Chickadees. These birds are labeled as a “Least Concern” species.

hummingbird dividerWhich Breed Is Right for You?

While there are many similarities between a Junco and a Chickadee, these birds have distinct features that make it easy to differentiate them. These tiny birds are beautiful and also pretty friendly. Plus, they aren’t noisy and can be used to control insects and pests. If you want to keep any of these birds near your home, make sure you know their feeding habits and other requirements to give them a safe area to live.


Featured Image Credit: Left (Junco) – Veronika_Andrews, Pixabay, Right (Chikadee) – Ami Parikh, Shutterstock

About the Author Jeff Weishaupt

Jeff is a tech professional by day, writer, and amateur photographer by night. He's had the privilege of leading software teams for startups to the Fortune 100 over the past two decades. He currently works in the data privacy space. Jeff's amateur photography interests started in 2008 when he got his first DSLR camera, the Canon Rebel. Since then, he's taken tens of thousands of photos. His favorite handheld camera these days is his Google Pixel 6 XL. He loves taking photos of nature and his kids. In 2016, he bought his first drone, the Mavic Pro. Taking photos from the air is an amazing perspective, and he loves to take his drone while traveling.

Jeff Weishaupt Profile Picture