Indigo Bunting

Indigo BuntingA brilliantly blue bird of old fields and roadsides, the Indigo Bunting prefers abandoned land to urban areas, intensely farmed areas, or deep forests.

Keys to identification

Typical Voice

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  • Size & Appearance

    Indigo Buntings are small songbirds with a short, thick bill. They are about 5.5 inches in length with a wingspan of 8 inches.

  • Color Pattern

    • Male Description
      Breeding (Alternate) Plumage: Blue all over, deepest on head. Black in front of eyes. Occasionally with some brown on back, wing, breast, or under tail, or whitish on belly. Wing feathers dark, edged in blue. Upper bill blackish, lower mandible blue-gray.

      Nonbreeding (Basic) Plumage: Brown, with some blue edges to scattered feathers; some birds may be more blue than brown. Often whitish on lower belly and under tail. Blackish in front of eyes. Bill whitish to blue-gray. Gape yellowish.

    • Female Description
      All brown. Unstreaked or with indistinct streaks on chest. Faint buff wingbars. May have some blue-tinged feathers on wing, tail, or rump. Upper bill brown to blackish, lower mandible pale.
    • Immature Description
      Similar to adult female, with brighter buff wingbars. First-year male shows variable amount of blue and brown, may have distinct wingbars.
  • Behavior

    Indigo Buntings glean insects off of branches. They feed in flocks in winter.

  • Habitat

    Indigo Buntings breed in brushy and weedy areas along edges of cultivated land, woods, roads, power line rights-of-way, and in open deciduous woods and old fields. These birds winter in weedy fields, citrus orchards, and weedy cropland. Cup-shaped nests are hidden 2 to 12 feet off the ground, in weeds or shrubs. Indigo Buntings lay three or four bluish-white eggs.

  • Food

    Indigo Buntings eat a wide variety of small insects, spiders, seeds, buds, and berries. They are particularily fond of Nyjer in the backyard bird feeders.

  • Fact

    The Indigo Bunting migrates at night, using the stars for guidance. It learns its orientation to the night sky from its experience as a young bird observing the stars.