Indigo Bunting

Indigo Buntings are sparrow sized birds that breed all over the eastern US and into parts of Colorado, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico. They migrate to Central America and the Caribbean for the winter months. Their preferred habitat is weedy, brushy fields near wooded areas. I took these photos in just such an environment.

Male Indigo Buntings, as the name implies, are dark blue that makes them appear black in shaded areas. They have no blue pigments in their feathers though. The color, like the sky, is from light refraction and reflection. Females and non-breeding males are brownish with faint streaks. There might be a touch of blue in places though.

The females build their nest close to ground and their subdued coloration helps camouflage them on the nest. The males do a lot of territorial singing and are often perched in a high place near the nest. They also can be seen as they forage in the shrubs and grasses. This male was very cooperative and stayed fairly close by to let me get these pictures.

I mentioned that the blue color is not from the color of the feathers. Actually, there are no birds that are actually blue. As this little factoid from the Cornell Labs site says:

“Like all other blue birds, Indigo Buntings lack blue pigment. Their jewel-like color comes instead from microscopic structures in the feathers that refract and reflect blue light, much like the airborne particles that cause the sky to look blue.”

4 thoughts on “Indigo Bunting

    1. It does. Not being an ornithologist, I checked various sources including the Cornell Lab and Smithsonian. They all indicate that the blue color in all birds is from the structure. Wherever it comes from, the blue in all birds is always striking!

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