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Our Backyard Birds: The Indigo Bunting

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A Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea) eating an insect on a small branch.
Blue and Beautiful

Backyard Birding: The Indigo Bunting

(Passerina cyanea)



Entice them to your backyard feeders with their favorite bird seed, white proso millet. They are also attracted to black oil sunflower seeds, and Nyjer. Perhaps the best way to attract indigo buntings to your backyard is with native plants. Bushes, berry-producing shrubs, and flowers provide plenty of shelter and natural food sources like buds, berries, and seeds. Strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries are some of the indigo bunting favorites.


Platform feeders are the best feeders but make sure you sprinkle plenty of good quality bird seed mix on the ground.


Indigo buntings are sparrow-sized, stocky birds with short tails and conical beaks. Breeding males are bright blue, with slightly darker blue on the head. The females and juveniles are brownish, with faint streaking on the breast and sometimes a touch of blue on the wings, tail, or rump.


The all-blue male Indigo Bunting sings with cheerful delight and looks like a piece of sky with wings. Sometimes nicknamed "blue canaries," these brightly colored yet widespread birds whistle their bouncy songs through the late spring and summer all over eastern North America. Look for Indigo Buntings in weedy fields and shrubby areas near trees, singing from dawn to dusk on top of the tallest perch in sight or searching for seeds and insects in low vegetation. Like the Blue Jay, Indigo Buntings lack blue pigment. Their jewel-like color comes instead from microscopic structures in the feathers that refract and reflect blue light. Bunting plumage does contain the pigment melanin, you can see this dull brown-black hue if you hold a blue feather up so the light comes from behind it, instead of toward it.

Tiny though they may be, these small birds can fly hundreds of miles thanks to the help of an internal clock that enables them to determine their location in space. The birds migrate at night so they can see the stars overhead when they fly. To chart their course, they fixate on a specific star. They then fly at a specific angle between the star and the Earth. Geometrically, this points them in a straight line that allows them to accurately arrive at their destination.

A Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea) perches on a tall weed.
Indigo Bunting

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about the Indigo Bunting and how you can attract them to your backyard. If this is your first time visiting my website or reading one of my blog posts, welcome, and thank you for joining us. Please subscribe here so you can receive updates on the next blog posts on Backyard Birding. You will also receive occasional discounts and newsletters. Remember to follow the Nature First and Leave No Trace principles and always strive to leave places better than you found them. Please share this blog post with your friends and family who have a love for birds, bird photography, or backyard birding.

Until next time, keep the sun behind you and the birds in view.


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