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Indigo Bunting
Indigo Bunting

Indigo Buntings can be attracted to your yard with seed feeders, water, and a little shrubbery.

Identification and Pictures

 (Passerina cyanea)

Indigo Bunting

These are small finches about 5 ˝ inches.  Their small conical bill is useful for both insects and, seeds.  When they are in breeding plumage adult males are all blue, possibly with blackish wings, and tail with blue edges.  The iridescent blue color is not a result of pigmentation.  The structure of the feathers causes light to scatter or reflect giving the feathers an often bright blue coloration.  The blue color changes with different lighting.  Get this bird in a puzzle.

Photo by Dave Menke, US Wildlife

Young males have black feathers that will turn bluer with each year.  The female and young are dull brown with small amounts of blue in the tail, and shoulders, and blurred wing bars.  After breeding season the males loose their brilliant plumage, and look more like the females.

Indigo buntings are often mistaken for Blue grosbeak or bluebirds.

Indigo Bunting

Songs and Calls

From perches throughout his territory you can hear the constant melody of the male.  Its song is a fast warble of paired phrases sounding like “sweet-sweet, cheer cheer, seeit-seeit”.  They also have a flight song, usually sung at dawn and twilight that sounds like “tsick”.  In poor light you may only have its song and its silhouette for identification.

Note on some browsers you will not be able to see or use the drop down sound list.  If you can't use it try the sound link below.
Bunting Song

Range, Habitat and Migration

Indigo Buntings prefer thick brushy areas with a few tall trees near woodland edges.  They can be found in open brushy fields, and farmlands, forest clearings, along roadsides, and in yards with bushes or shrubbery.

The birds are found in most of eastern North America and in southern Canada during the breeding season.
Most Indigo Buntings migrate to central Mexico, Central America, and northern South America in the winter.  Some may stay around all year in warmer areas such as southern Florida.

Breeding and Nesting

They like to breed in brushy and weedy areas.  Clearings, swamps, open fields, and woodlands are all used.  In April to mid May older male buntings arrive on their North American breeding grounds.  By the time the females arrive a couple weeks later the males will have their territories. The female will pick her mate, and the two birds will have 2 to 3 broods.

The female builds a small sturdy nest of twigs, leaves, and plant fibers.  The lining includes feathers, fine grasses, cloth, and other materials.  The nest is generally hidden in heavy cover close to the ground.  The female will incubate 2 to 6 white or bluish-white eggs for around 2 weeks.
Females do most of the feeding of the young until they fledge in around 10 days.  After they fledge the male may take care of them while the female gets ready for a second brood.  Until the eggs hatch the male stays away from the nest.  He does defend it, and increases defense after the eggs hatch. Both birds may mate with other partners.

 Indigo buntings will sometimes cross breed with Lazuli Buntings.

They will group together in large flocks from August to November for their long southern migration.

Food, Water and Feeding

Natural foods are mostly insects, and spiders along with seeds, buds, berries, and fruit. They will come to yards with seed feeders, water, and some shrubbery.

For more on food and feeding go here.
For more on feeders go here.

Check out our Bunting posters

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