While the female Indigo Bunting sure doesn’t live up to the “indigo” in its title, the male in breeding plumage leaves little doubt about how this bird received its colorful name.
The brown female (right) is most often on her nest and only upon close inspection in the sun will the bluish glint of her back and wing feathers help you distinguish her from a sparrow.
Indigo Buntings construct a loose cup of grasses, leaves and animal fur held together with spider silk. The nest is often low in a shrub and hard to detect. Indigo Buntings may have two broods a year, raising 2-6 young each time. They have a short fledging stage, only 9-10 days.
Indigo Buntings are fairly widespread east of the Rocky Mountains and in the southwest. They are not found in the Pacific Northwest, or the northern Rocky states such as Montana and Idaho. These colorful birds join others and winter over in Mexico and Central America. In Minnesota they usually return to their breeding areas in early to mid-May.
Insects are the indigo’s preferred diet and they’ll glean them from leaves and branches. Thankfully for backyard birders, these colorful birds also are easily drawn to Nyjer tube feeders (they can’t cling to mesh feeders though). They also eat millet, so a mix like Joe’s Mix in a tube feeder or a fly-through style feeder is a good secondary choice. They’ll consume small quantities of berries throughout the year.
Listen to the Indigo Bunting
mp3 file generously donated by John Feith