Photo: Rob Curtis/Vireo

Indigo Bunting

Passerina cyanea

In parts of the East, Indigo Bunting may be the most abundant songbird, with the deep-blue males singing along every roadside. The plain brown females are seen far less often, and they have good reason to be inconspicuous: they do almost all the work of caring for the eggs and young, hidden away in dense thickets. This species favors brushy edges rather than unbroken forest, and is probably far more common today than when the Pilgrims landed.
Conservation status Does well in brushy rural areas, but not in urbanized areas or regions of intense agriculture. Since about 1940s, has extended breeding range to include much of southwest.
Family Cardinals
Habitat Brushy pastures, bushy wood edges. For nesting favors roadsides, old fields growing up to bushes, edges of woodlands, and other edge habitats such as along rights-of-way for powerlines or railroads. Also in clearings within deciduous woods, edges of swamps. In the west, usually near streams. During winter in the tropics, most common around brushy edges of farm fields.
In parts of the East, Indigo Bunting may be the most abundant songbird, with the deep-blue males singing along every roadside. The plain brown females are seen far less often, and they have good reason to be inconspicuous: they do almost all the work of caring for the eggs and young, hidden away in dense thickets. This species favors brushy edges rather than unbroken forest, and is probably far more common today than when the Pilgrims landed.
Photo Gallery
Feeding Behavior

Forages at all levels from ground up into shrubs and trees. Takes insects from leaves, seeds from ground or stems, berries from shrubs. Forages alone in summer, in flocks in winter.


Eggs

3-4, rarely 1-2. White to bluish-white, rarely with brown or purple spots. Incubation is by female only, 12-13 days, sometimes 11-14 days. Young: Fed only by female in most cases. At some nests, male helps feed young when they are nearly old enough to fly. Young usually leave nest 9-12 days after hatching. Male sometimes takes over feeding of fledged young while female begins second nesting attempt. 2 broods per year.


Young

Fed only by female in most cases. At some nests, male helps feed young when they are nearly old enough to fly. Young usually leave nest 9-12 days after hatching. Male sometimes takes over feeding of fledged young while female begins second nesting attempt. 2 broods per year.

Diet

Mostly seeds and insects. In breeding season feeds mostly on insects and spiders, also some seeds, berries. Young in the nest are fed mostly insects at first. In winter, eats many seeds, also some insects.


Nesting

Male establishes territory in spring, defends it with song. Male may have more than one mate at a time living on his territory. Nest site is usually 1-3' above ground, rarely up to 30' or more, in dense shrub or low tree. Late in season, may nest in large weed such as goldenrod. Nest (built by female) an open cup of grass, leaves, weeds, bark strips, lined with finer materials.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Migration

Many migrate across Gulf of Mexico in both spring and fall. Migrates at night, and can navigate by the stars. Important studies of bird navigation and migration have involved this species.

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Migration

Many migrate across Gulf of Mexico in both spring and fall. Migrates at night, and can navigate by the stars. Important studies of bird navigation and migration have involved this species.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Rapid, excited warble, each note or phrase given twice.