Noted for their beautiful blue coloring among breeding males, the indigo bunting is a member of the cardinal family. These migratory birds are often heard singing in fields and farmlands in late spring and summer.

Physical Description

Indigo buntings are small songbirds, roughly about the size of a sparrow. Males in their breeding plumage have a brilliant jewel-like coloring that makes them a favorite among birdwatchers. Vibrant shades of blue cover their bodies, with slightly darker blues on their head. Wingtips and tails are blackish. Females, however, are mostly brown with white undersides and faint brown streaks on the breast. Males lose their breeding color during the fall and take on the brown coloration of females. Both sexes have short, cone-shaped beaks and dark gray legs.

Size

Adults are 4.5-5.9 inches (11.5-15 centimeters) long and weigh about half an ounce (14.5 grams). Males are a little larger than females.

Native Habitat

Indigo buntings live in fields, pastures, rural areas and edges of woodlands. 

In the winter, these birds can be found throughout the Caribbean, Central America, and northern South America. In the spring, they migrate northward traveling across the Gulf of Mexico to the Eastern and Midwestern United States as well as southeastern Canada.

Communication

Males sing a cheerful, double-noted sweet-sweet chew-chew song to mark their territory and attract females during the breeding season. 

Food/Eating Habits

Indigo buntings eat insects, seeds, and berries.

Social Structure

During the breeding season, males defend their territory from other males.

Conservation Efforts

Increased urbanization, intensive agriculture, frequent mowing of roadsides and fields, and deforestation all contribute to indigo bunting population decline. Because they breed and sing along roadsides, many are killed by vehicle collisions in summer. During migration, many die after flying into buildings and transmission towers. Additionally, in wintering ground regions, they are trapped for the Illegal caged bird trade as well as hunted. 

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