Dark-eyed Junco is a songbird species that shows a remarkable diversity in coloration and migratory behavior. Depending on the authority, here are at least 6 major junco subspecies that differ markedly in their plumage color – junco subspecies show pink, red, grey, black, brown, and white feather areas in various combinations. Importantly, junco diversification has been extremely rapid –these feather color differences have likely evolved since the last ice age, only 15,000 years ago. Therefore, juncos serve as an example of one of the most rapid songbird diversification events!
Our goal is to study divergence in coloration and other traits including body size and seasonal timing of reproduction and migration and the physiological and genetic mechanisms that regulate difference between junco subspecies. In Idaho, our interest is in the Pink-sided and Grey-headed Juncos that can be found there during the breeding season.