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Lazuli Bunting

Passerina amoena ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: CARDINALIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The male Lazuli Bunting lights up dry brushy hillsides, thickets, and gardens throughout the West, flashing the blue of a lapis gemstone mixed with splashes of orange. He belts out his squeaky and jumbling song from atop shrubs to defend his territory. The softly colored female is often nearby teetering on tiny stems in a balancing act to reach seeds and other fare. This stocky finchlike bird is related to cardinals and grosbeaks and often visits bird feeders, especially those filled with white proso millet.

Keys to identification Help

Finchlike
Finchlike
Typical Voice
  • Size & Shape

    Lazuli Buntings are small, finchlike, stocky songbirds with cone-shaped bills and gently sloping foreheads. The tail is notched or slightly forked.

  • Color Pattern

    Adult breeding males are brilliant blue above with a pumpkin-colored breast and a white belly. Adult males also have a white shoulder patch that stands out on perched and flying birds. Females are warm grayish-brown above, with a blue tinge to the wings and tail, two buffy wingbars, and an unstreaked pale cinnamon or tan breast. Juveniles and nonbreeding males have a pumpkin-colored breast, but their backs and heads are mottled blue and tan.

  • Behavior

    Male Lazuli Buntings perch upright and sing from exposed perches in low trees and shrubs. They forage at various heights, but spend most of their time in the understory, hopping between branches and on the ground while reaching for insects or seeds.

  • Habitat

    Lazuli Buntings breed in brushy hillsides, areas near streams, wooded valleys, thickets and hedges along agricultural fields, recently burned areas, and residential gardens of the West, up to about 9,500 feet elevation.

Range Map Help

Lazuli Bunting Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • Breeding male

    Lazuli Bunting

    Breeding male
    • Small, finchlike, stocky songbird
    • Cone-shaped silver bill
    • Sky-blue head, pumpkin-colored breast, and white belly
    • Bold white wingbars
    • © Susan, San Ramon, California, May 2011
  • Breeding male

    Lazuli Bunting

    Breeding male
    • Small, finchlike, stocky songbird
    • Cone-shaped silver bill
    • Sky-blue head, pumpkin-colored breast, and white belly
    • Bold white wingbars
    • © Ganesh Jayaraman, Rancho San Antonio, Los Altos, California, April 2010
  • Breeding male

    Lazuli Bunting

    Breeding male
    • Small, finchlike, stocky songbird
    • Cone-shaped silver bill
    • Sky-blue head, pumpkin-colored breast, and white belly
    • Bold white wingbars
    • © Ganesh Jayaraman, Los Altos, California, April 2010
  • Nonbreeding male

    Lazuli Bunting

    Nonbreeding male
    • Small, finchlike, stocky songbird
    • Cone-shaped silver bill
    • Sky-blue head dappled with tan
    • Pumpkin-colored breast and white belly
    • Bold white wingbars
    • © Arlene Ripley/Macaulay Library, Cochise, Arizona, May 2016
  • Female

    Lazuli Bunting

    Female
    • Small, finchlike, stocky songbird
    • Cone-shaped bill
    • Two buffy wingbars
    • Unstreaked pale cinnamon to tan breast
    • © Ian Routley/Macaulay Library, Squamish-Lillooet, British Columbia, Canada, August 2016
  • Female

    Lazuli Bunting

    Female
    • Small, finchlike, stocky songbird
    • Cone-shaped bill
    • Two buffy wingbars
    • Unstreaked tan breast
    • © Cameron Rognan, Truckee, California, July 2009

Similar Species

Similar Species

Male Lazuli Buntings can most often be distinguished from similar blue birds by their unique color pattern. For females you may need to look closely at bill size, shape, and color. Indigo Buntings overlap with Lazuli Buntings in the plains states and in the Southwest. Female Indigo Buntings have faint streaks on the sides of their breast and a whitish throat, whereas female Lazuli Buntings have an unstreaked breast and a gray throat. Varied Buntings only reach the extreme southwestern U.S. The females have plain brown wings and lack the Lazuli’s two buffy wingbars. Western Bluebirds are larger than Lazuli Buntings, with thinner, more delicate bills and they don't have wingbars. Blue Grosbeaks are larger and stockier than Lazuli Buntings with much heavier bills. Male Blue Grosbeaks have a blue belly and rufous wingbars, without the orange chest or white belly of male Lazuli Buntings. Female Blue Grosbeaks have browner wingbars compared to the buffy wingbars of female Lazuli Buntings. Brown-headed Cowbirds are larger and stockier with a heavier and longer conical bill.

Backyard Tips

Lazuli Buntings frequent bird feeders, especially ones that offer white proso millet, sunflower seeds, or nyjer thistle seeds. Visit Project FeederWatch to learn more about what type of feeder and seed to use.

Create bird friendly habitat in your yard by planting native shrubs to provide foraging and even nesting opportunities for the Lazuli Bunting. Learn more about birdscaping at Habitat Network.

Find This Bird

During the breeding season, a walk along a trail or road through brushy hillsides and chaparral might lead you to a Lazuli Bunting. Once you are in the right habitat, listen for their fast jumbling song and look high in tall shrubs for a singing male. Males tend to be quite vocal and defensive of their territories especially early in the breeding season. So to catch a singing male, be sure to go looking in April in the southern part of their range or in May in the northern part of their range. They'll be easier to hear in April through June, but these common birds are still fairly visible for the rest of the summer months. During the nonbreeding season scan weedy fields and look for small finchlike birds weighing down grass and weed stems while they eat seeds.

Get Involved

Join the Great Backyard Bird Count and tell us how many species you see in your yard. Find out more at Great Backyard Bird Count.

Count the number of birds you see at your feeders and provide scientists with valuable data by joining Project FeederWatch.

You Might Also Like

Watch how Lazuli Bunting distribution changes throughout the year with this eBird Animated Occurrence Map.

Learn more about how and why birds molt their feathers in The Basics: Feather Molt, All About Birds, April 20, 2008.

Flyways for Flyweights: Small Birds Capitalize on Weather Patterns During Epic Migrations, All About Birds, May 15, 2014.

Read more about the Lazuli Bunting’s unusual postbreeding movements: These 8 Unexpected Migration Routes Give You Reason to Go Birding in Summer, All About Birds, July 16, 2014.

Read more about how Lazuli Buntings and other species migrate along a "Green wave" of resources in Migrants Ride A Green Wave North, Living Bird, Spring 2015.

Look out! The Backyard Bird Alarm Call Network, Living Bird, Winter 2016.

In Colombia, Shade-Grown Coffee Sustains Songbirds And People Alike, Living Bird, Autumn 2016.

People Power And Sustainable Forestry Keep Deforestation At Bay In Guatemala, Living Bird, Autumn 2016.

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The Cornell Lab will send you updates about birds, birding, and opportunities to help bird conservation. You can unsubscribe at any time. We will never sell or give your email address to others.