Project Chekov: Indigo Bunting

There are birds that have some blue in their palette and then there are birds that are BLUE! The following bird definitely fits into the latter group and one of those birds that are rarely mistaken. Unlike the last post, this entry does result in a new check mark in the birding list – not that I haven’t seen it a bunch of times (especially around where I live), but finally got one in the tin and that is a key criteria for the coveted check. So, without further delay, I present to you the Indigo Bunting.

This specimen was really sporting the blue and based on the other specimens below, you will notice it is actually a little more puffed than usual. My apologies, but I cannot remember the setting where this particular bird was taken. As a result I am not sure if it was cold that day and it was simply puffing itself up or if there might be some other external condition that accounts for the larger than rounder shape – maybe it is just fat (harsh, I know).

I did check into the Blue Bunting which does have a deeper blue and fuller shape, but according to Stokes that is a fairly rare bird so dismissing that for now. Here is a more typical example of an Indigo Bunting that was taken at a different location. A little thinner (umm maybe a LOT thinner). From this angle you can get a good feel for the overall coloring with the deeper almost black highlighting in the wings.

Hit the jump to view a few more Indigo Buntings enjoying our feeders

As mentioned earlier, we have the opportunity to see these Buntings quite frequently in our neck of the woods. Fairly abundant in a state park located down the street and apparently like our feeders based on the number of times we’ve seen them chowing down on our sunflower seeds. Interesting enough, I have never seen more than one at the feeders at any given time.

Chomp chomp chomp. Okay, I did find a shot at the feeder that does show a puffier Bunting that looks more like the one in the first few shots so maybe they do come in various sizes or .. rather fluffiness. Needless to say I was able to get my preferred wildlife composition.

I just think that pose is soooo much better than the straight on shots which I tend to avoid on the non-predator birds (the latter look more menacing head on because their eyes are more forward). If you want really goofy try looking at a Crane or Heron head on … eesh, like looking at a clown – the horror, the horror.


So these birds have a broad region across the US – essentially everything East of a vertical line from the Western part of Texas. Cornell does mention they are solitaire birds in their breeding region (during the summer) but flock up for the migration which takes them down to Central America. Good news for us, they are also insect eaters (always welcome here) and that same site indicates they like thistle or nyjer seed but fail to mention they LOVE sunflower seeds as well. Chomp Chomp Chomp

News to me was these birds are part of the Cardinal family. Odd since they are a completely different primary color and much smaller than their family mates. Similar to Cardinals, the males has the more colorful plumage where the females possess a more drab brown coloring (at least the female Cardinals have a touch of red coloring on them).

According to our friends over at Wikipedia, these cute little birds are victims for those damn Cowbirds (link here). If Cowbird gets to the nest before they lay their own they will abandon the nest, but if placed after they have laid their own eggs, the unsuspecting parents will see it through to hatching (as before, bet there is an interesting discussion when that happens). This tends to result in lower success rates as the smaller birds have to compete with the larger Cowbird baby.

As a note, they have an even more colorful brother named the Painted Bunting which is near the top of my wish list. I was hoping to get one in Texas last year, but failed – partly due to monstrous sized mosquitoes that viciously attacked us and nearly drained every bit of blood out of me. A quick look at the region shows the Painted Bunting can be found in Florida as well so might have to make a run down there and see if I can get one in the tin.

Having troubles getting this post done tonight thanks to an Internet issue so going to wrap this one up.  I’ll also fix up any typos when the Internet comes up so my advanced apologies for any of those.

3 thoughts on “Project Chekov: Indigo Bunting”

  1. I really like the 3rd and 5th shots! The green background from the woods goes very well with the bright blue coloring of the Indigo Bunting.

    You didn’t mention my favorite attribute of the Indigo Bunting after its color: it song. I can tell it anywhere, because it is exactly the song of the old mechanical clocks in museums. Twitter, Twitter, etc. Very, very pretty.

    They tend to be high in trees, although Matthew and I have photographed them in lower trees at times. Their blue color is brilliant and iridescent when the sun is behind you while you are looking at them. They also tend to be in tall trees around roads for some reason, and to return to the same locations. They lose some of their color later in the summer, and as you say, the female is generally brown.

    Thanks for the pics of one of my favorite birds!



  2. I didn’t know they were your favorite bird (second to the Snowy Owl I’m sure). I see them all the time while running, but I usually have headphones on so can’t say I’ve really heard them before – now I have a mission! Will confirm or contest your odd association when I do. Thanks for sharing


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