Vancouver Avian Research Centre

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Species: Indigo Bunting Passerina cyanea


The Indigo Bunting is one of the best known songbirds in Eastern North America and is closely related to it’s counter part the Lazuli Bunting (Passerina amoena) of Western North America. It is a small migratory species that breeds in the eastern part of the continent and winters primarily in southern Florida, Mexico and Central America, and on islands in the Gulf of Mexico. It is rare in the West.


General: Rather stocky, short-tailed and small-billed bunting with dark conical bill. Length: 14 cm, weight: 14.5 g.

Adult Male: Deep blue overall; older males are bright blue, the head somewhat more purplish blue; dark gray conical bill. In winter is brownish, with some blue on underparts, wings and rump.

Adult Female: Brown often with a touch of blue on the shoulders, rump and tail; faint wing bars and faint streaking; short, gray, conical bill.

Juvenile: Female juvenile is like adult female. Male is like adult female through first winter, then a mixture of brown and blue feathers on body.

Similar Species: Smaller than Blue Grosbeak; bill much smaller. The Lazuli Bunting, unlike Indigo Bunting, has bright wing bars, cinnamon across breast and white underparts.

Behavior: Forages on the ground, in low foliage, in trees, shrubbery; eats grasshoppers, beetles, weevils, aphids, cicadas, cankerworms, flies, mosquitoes; seeds of dandelion, golden-rod, aster, thistle, grasses; small grains, berries. Male strongly defends his territory against other males by singing from trees, utility wires and other perches.

Habitat: In summer lives in weed-grown fields, forest edges, roadsides, hedges, dry brush-lands, orchards, open woods of dry uplands, along creeks and rivers with thickets for nesting, highway, power line, and railroad rights-of-way.


The adult male in breeding plumage is the only small N. American finch to appear blue all over. The male in sunshine is almost solidly blue, but against the sky or in shade may appear black. Sometimes hybridizes with Lazuli Bunting. The nest is of dead leaves, weed stems, grasses, lined with finer grasses and downy material, and is placed in the fork of a shrub branch or tangle or in a tree, two to ten feet above the ground. Two to six white eggs are laid.

Conservation Status:

Numbers are declining.
Capture Rates

The habitat of Colony Farm is well suited to the Indigo Bunting and though its range may be expanding it is a rare visitor to the west. This is reflected in low capture rates (2010-2012; standardized as birds captured per 100 net hours) in June, July and September.


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