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Indigo Bunting

Passerina cyanea ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: CARDINALIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The all-blue male Indigo Bunting sings with cheerful gusto and looks like a scrap of sky with wings. Sometimes nicknamed "blue canaries," these brilliantly colored yet common and 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 atop the tallest perch in sight or foraging for seeds and insects in low vegetation.

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Songs

Male Indigo Buntings whistle a bright, lively song of sharp, clear, high-pitched notes that lasts about 2 seconds. They are voluble, singing as many as 200 songs per hour at dawn and keeping up a pace of about one per minute for the rest of the day. Notes or phrases are often repeated in pairs: "what! what! where? where? see it! see it!" This pattern is recognizable, although the precise tune varies from place to place. Young Indigo Buntings learn their songs from males near where they settle to breed, and this leads to “song neighborhoods” in which all nearby males sing songs that are similar to each other and that are different from those sung more than a few hundred yards away.

Calls

Indigo Buntings give short, sharp, thin, one-syllable "spit" or "chip" calls.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Backyard Tips

You can attract Indigo Buntings to your yard with feeders, particularly with small seeds such as thistle or nyjer. Indigo Buntings also eat many insects, so live mealworms may attract them as well. There’s more about feeding birds at our Attract Birds pages.

Find This Bird

Look for Indigo Buntings in midsummer along rural roads, where they often sing from telephone lines or wooded edges for hours on end. One of the best ways to find them is to learn to recognize the bouncy quality of the paired notes in their song. During migration you may see large flocks of Indigo Buntings feeding in agricultural fields or on lawns. In fall their mostly brown plumage can make them tricky to identify, but look for tinges of blue in the wings or tail as a giveaway.

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