One of the most familiar and most abundant buntings in North America, the indigo bunting is a beautiful bird that brightens many birders' backyards with its spectacular plumage.
- Bill: Large, conical, gray-black
- Size: 5.5 inches long with 8.5-inch wingspan, large bill
- Colors: Blue, black, tan, buff, white, gray
- Markings: Dimorphic species. Males are an overall bright blue with the darkest color on the head, which is marked with black lores and chin. The wings and tail have buff-black edging. Females are overall tan with a slight blue tinge that may show in the wings and tail. Their underparts are paler tan, and two faint buff wing bars are visible. Wings show buff edging. Chest and flanks show minor gray streaking, and the throat and undertail coverts are whitish. Species is monotypic.
Insects, seeds, berries
Habitat and Migration:
These songbirds prefer deciduous forest edges and brush fields, and they can frequently be found in agricultural areas, parks and suburban backyards. As neotropical migrants, their summer range includes all of central and eastern North America from southeastern Saskatchewan and eastern Montana to the Atlantic coast, with the breeding range extending as far as southeastern Arizona in the southwest. In winter, indigo buntings can be found in southern Florida and southern Texas, as well as throughout the Caribbean and Central America as far south as Colombia. Winter vagrants are relatively common in the western United States, and rare vagrant sightings have been reported in Europe.
These birds have a high pitched, meticulous warbling song that includes buzzes and chirps. The typical call is a high pitched "chip" or "pik" that may be repeated at regular, moderate intervals.
Indigo buntings are typically solitary but may be found in pairs during the breeding season. They are gregarious in fall and winter and may form mixed flocks with other buntings, as well as sparrows and finches. While feeding, they glean from trees and shrubs and will also forage on the ground. Males can be aggressive and will chase other males out of their territory, and they will perch in the open and sing in midday to advertise their territorial boundaries.
These are monogamous birds and breeding females incubate each brood for 12-14 days. After the altricial young have hatched, the females continue caring for them for an additional 10-13 days. A mated pair may raise 1-2 broods per year, with each brood containing 1-4 eggs. Where their ranges overlap, indigo buntings have been known to hybridize with lazuli buntings and painted buntings.
Attracting Indigo Buntings:
These bright songbirds will readily visit both hanging and ground feeders for seed, particularly black oil sunflower seeds and white proso millet. Providing a fresh, clean water source can also attract these birds, as can suitable shrubs that provide cover for ground foraging.