When I was a young man growing up in Northern California, I thought I knew all about Juncos. Juncos are cute  little woodland sparrows. They have dark eyes set in darkly colored heads, are quite attractive, and have a gentle disposition.

Then I moved to central Mexico, where I discovered that Juncos are actually crazed psychopaths who are clearly plotting your death. They may appear to be foraging, or singing from a post, but they are actually deciding how to make your final breath as painful as possible.

It was like remembering a beloved childhood toy, and finding out it was actually Chucky the Demonic Doll.

The difference, of course, was all in the eyes. Juncos in most of Mexico are of the Yellow-eyed Junco species. In Spanish they are called the Junco Ojos de Lumbre, or Bonfire-eyed Junco. And no matter how they look at you, those eyes make them look just plain evil. Which is, in fact, their chief charm.

It has always amused me that such an innocuous little bird could look so threatening. Sure, hawks and owls can look like they are trying to figure out what sauce would taste best on you, but juncos?

To their credit, Yellow-eyed Juncos aren’t born looking evil. Immatures look almost friendly. And occasionally, only so very occasionally, the adults manage to look a bit goofy rather than dangerous. But it doesn’t happen very often.

But, for the most part, they just look like the little avian assassins they really are.

So, if tonight you have trouble sleeping, please don’t blame me. Blame it on those crazy eyes.

Written by Paul Lewis
Paul Lewis moved from California to Mexico in 1983. He lived first in Mexicali, and now lives in the historic city of Morelia (about halfway between Guadalajara and Mexico City), where he and his wife pastor a small church. He is the author of an internationally distributed book in Spanish about family finances and has recorded four albums in Spanish of his own songs. But every Monday, he explores the wonderful habitats and birds found within an hour of his house, in sites which go from 3,000 to 10,000 feet of altitude. These habitats include freshwater wetlands, savannah grasslands, and pine, oak, pine/oak, pine/fir, cloud, and tropical scrub forests.