Its range is primarily in Mexico, extending into some of the mountains of the southern tips of the U.S. states of Arizona and New Mexico. Not generally migratory, but sometimes moves to nearby lower elevations during winter. The female species lays three to five pale gray or bluish-white eggs in an open nest of dried grass two to three times a year. Incubation takes 15 days, and when hatched, the chicks are ready the leave the nest two weeks later. This bird's diet consists mainly of seeds, berries and insects.
Similar to the situation in the dark-eyed junco, this species's systematics is still in need of much research before they can be considered resolved. Four subspecies groups are usually distinguished. These are, north to south:
- Mexican junco, Junco phaeonotus phaeonotus.
- Baird's junco, Junco phaeonotus bairdi.
- High mountains of Baja California Sur
- Chiapas junco, Junco phaeonotus fulvescens.
- High mountains of Chiapas, southeast Mexico.
- Guatemala junco, Junco phaeonotus alticola.
- BirdLife International (2012). "Junco phaeonotus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- "Junco phaeonotus phaeonotus". Integrated Taxonomic Information System.
- "Junco phaeonotus bairdi". Integrated Taxonomic Information System.
- "Junco phaeonotus fulvescens". Integrated Taxonomic Information System.
- "Junco phaeonotus alticola". Integrated Taxonomic Information System.
- Yellow-eyed junco (Junco phaeonotus) at the Internet Bird Collection