Vancouver Avian Research Centre

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Species: Lazuli Bunting Passerina amoena


The Lazuli Bunting, named because of the brilliant blue in its plumage after the gemstone lapis lazuli, is a small songbird that, although not common, can be found locally in the Vancouver area during spring and summer. This bird breeds as far north as southern BC to Saskatchewan, across the western US, and overwinters in western Mexico.


General: a small, stocky bird with a short tail, rounded wings, and a small, conical-shaped bill; averages 5.5” in length and 15.5 grams in weight.

Adult Male: turquoise hood, back and rump, with black lores, rufous-coloured breast, white belly and under-tail coverts. Has 2 white wing bars, the upper broader and more prominent than lower wing bar; the wings and tail themselves are dark but edged with the same bright turquoise-blue.

Female: a drab, grey-brown above, buffy and unstreaked underneath, and a greyish throat. A delicate light-blue tone to wings, tail, and rump, but the 2 buff-coloured wing-bars distinctive.

Juvenile: for the first winter and spring, the immature male has brown and buff-tipped feathers blended into the pale-blue hood and back; immature females resemble the adult female.

Similar species: Western Bluebirds have a similar colour palette, but lack wing-bars, are larger, and have a stout bill. Note that Lazuli Bunting hybridizes with Indigo Bunting where range overlaps.

Behaviour: Males tend to sing from a high perch persistently during the day. These songs are among the handful of those heard during the early afternoon when many other songbirds are relatively quiet.

Habitat: These birds tend to prefer open woodland and riparian areas with low trees, shrubs, bushes and weedy patches, often with elevated perches nearby; residential gardens may also provide suitable habitat. Note that this bird can be found at high elevations on occasion, sometimes over 3000 metres!


Mature male Lazuli Buntings have one song, which is unique to the individual bird. Immature males arriving on the breeding grounds in their first spring tend to not have a song of their own yet, but can copy the songs of other nearby males. This results in 'song neighbourhoods', where the songs of males in one area sound similar to each other, but different from males elsewhere.
Building a small nest of grasses lined with fine hairs, usually in a thick bush or shrub, Lazuli Buntings typically have a clutch of 3-5 pale blue eggs. Females incubate, but the male will somtimes help feed the chicks. Although pairs are usually monogamous, polygany is not uncommon.
Lazuli Buntings eat invertebrates, seeds, and grains, gleaning insects from shrubs or foraging on the ground, and sometimes visiting feeders.
For the spring migration north, males usually arrive at their breeding grounds slightly earlier than females, and the older birds ahead of the younger ones. After the breeding season, Lazuli Buntings begin their prebasic molt, but then interrupt it before migrating south to certain stopover hotspots, like southern Arizona, Baja, and New Mexico, where they complete their change in plumage before moving on to their wintering grounds.

Conservation Status:

The Lazuli Bunting currently maintains a status of Least Concern; however, it is vulnerable to nest parasitism of Brown-headed Cowbirds, thus lowering their reproductive success rates.
Capture Rates

Actually preferring the more arid conditions of the interior, Lazuli Bunting has been a usual summer resident at Colony Farm. It then migrates south for the winter as seen by zero capture rates (2010-2012; standardized as birds captured per 100 net hours) from October through April. The peak in June may correspond to individuals moving throughout the park before settling into breeding territories.


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