Junco Research Field Sites

junco subspecies range map indiana virginia south dakota wyoming california guadelupe chiapas guatemala

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Members of the Ketterson lab are working with junco populations all over the country - and now all over the continent!

Click on a star or a link below to learn more about each of our field sites.

Modified from Milá et al. 2007  


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outdoor aviary

Kent Farm, which lies 7 miles east of campus, is part of the IU Research and Teaching preserve and provides green space for field studies of birds. The Kent Farm Bird Observatory (KFBO) is a 2000 sq ft facility located at Kent Farm that allows us to house captive juncos in indoor and outdoor free-flight aviaries where we can control the birds' environment in common garden experiments or via manipulations of photoperiod or the social environment.  Also located at the farm is the Kent Farm Banding Station, where Ketterson lab members study free-living slate-colored juncos (Junco hyemalis hyemalis) in their wintering range in Indiana. Past research on wintering juncos has looked at migratory behavior, immune function, and the effects of urbanization. Other species under study include fox sparrows, tree sparrows, and other emberizids.


northern junco



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mountain lake

The Mountain Lake Biological Station in southwestern Virginia has a long association with the Ketterson Lab. Since 1983, Ketterson lab members have been studing the population of slate-colored juncos (Junco hyemalis carolinensis) that breed in the high-elevation Appalachian forest at and around the station. Over the years, we've accumulated information on over 14,000 individually-marked juncos and more than 3,000 nesting attempts.

Most of our research on the effects of testosterone on phenotype has occured at Mountain Lake. We have extensive data on the ways in which natural variation in testosterone levels as well as exogenous testosterone affect the physiology and behavior of both male and female juncos, giving us a baseline to which we can compare other junco populations (see below). Other non-testosterone-focused research projects at Mountain Lake over the years have included studying parental behavior, aggression, extra-pair behavior, sexual selection, demography, predation, and song, among others.

See our gallery of MLBS junco crew photos »


Carolina junco


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Laguna Mountain

Working with the Oregon juncos (Junco hyemalis thurberi) in California allows us a unique opportunity to study evolution in action. In California, juncos migrate seasonally from their summer breeding grounds in montane forests to winter in the milder climate by the coast. Within the past 30 years, juncos have colonized the area on and around the University of California, San Diego campus, and now remain there year-round. Since then, the coastal, urban population has undergone rapid changes in morphology and behaviour, resulting in birds that are smaller, less ornamented, less aggressive, and more parental than their migratory counterparts.

By comparing the urban colonist (UCSD) population to a nearby montane ancestral population (Laguna Mountain), we can examine the degree of hormonal, morphological, and behavioral differentiation that has arisen post-colonization. We can also explore the selective pressures imposed on the juncos by the novel, urban environment, and the ways in which suites of traits may vary either independently or in combination. See Jonathan Atwell's page for more information.


Oregon junco


South Dakota

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South Dakota

A recent study suggests that the diversification of the dark-eyed junco into subspecies occurred after the last glacial recession. The degree of diversity across subspecies is extensive, especially given the relatively short timescale (Mila et al. 2007). This marked, rapid phenotypic differentiation provides an excellent system for the comparative study of endocrine mechanisms.

The Black Hills of South Dakota are home to the endemic white-winged junco (Junco hyemalis aikeni). Little direct research has ever been conducted on the white-winged junco, but this subspecies is of particular interest because they have the largest body size and highest levels of ornamentation of any population of dark-eyed junco. The Ketterson Lab has been studying breeding white-winged juncos in the pine forest of the Black Hills near Custer, South Dakota since 2007. For more information on research on juncos in South Dakota, see Christy Bergeon Burns's page.

white-winged junco



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Grand Tetons

Northwest Wyoming is home to the pink-sided junco (Junco hyemalis mearnsi), and our lab has recently established a banded study population in Grand Teton National Park. Pink-sided juncos are intermediate to Oregon juncos and slate-colored juncos in their plumage characteristics, and nest abundantly in edge habitat such as transitions between sagebrush and coniferous forest. To date the Wyoming study population has been used predominantly in comparative studies related to divergence in vocal behavior and preen oil composition. See Dustin Reichard's page for more information.

pink-sided junco


Mexico and Guatemala

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pink-sided junco

During the summer of 2010 and spring of 2011, our group conducted pilot work on the yellow-eyed junco (Junco phaeonotus subspp.) and the Guadelupe junco (Junco hyemalis insularis) at field sites in Mexico and Guatemala. We recorded song, filmed habitat, photographed nests, and initiated connections with local landowners and conservation organizations.

The Mexico sites were: a) Parque Ecologico "Encuentro", San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas (Junco phaeonotus fulvescens)
b) near Mexico City (El Ajusco, DF) (Junco phaeonotus phaeonotus)
c) Isla Guadelupe (Junco hyemalis insularis).

The Guatemala site was at Chichim, Todos Santos, Cuchumatanes Mts, Guatemala (Junco phaeonotus alticola).

Pictures, from top to bottom:
1) Desert below sky island breeding habitat in Sierra de La Laguna, Baja Sur, Mexico---travelling up to forest breeding habitat of Baird's junco, el pacifico to the west, April 2011
2) Baird's (Baja) Junco, Sierra de La Laguna, Baja Sur, Mexico, April 2011
3) Guadalupe Island at sunset, Guadalupe Island, Mexico, June 2010
4) Yellow-eyed Junco (Guatemala race) in the highlands near Todos Santos, Guatemala, June 2010

pink-sided junco
pink-sided junco
pink-sided junco