Lazuli Buntings live in brushy hillsides, areas near streams, wooded valleys, thickets and hedges along agricultural fields, and residential gardens from sea level to more than 9,500 feet elevation. They are also common in recently burned areas, but less so in selectively logged forests or clearcuts. On their wintering grounds in western Mexico, they use overgrown fields, thorn forests, second-growth pine-oak forests, agricultural areas, and hedgerows. Back to top
Lazuli Buntings pick caterpillars, spiders, grasshoppers, ants, beetles, butterflies, and other insects from leaves and grasses in the understory. They also eat berries and seeds from serviceberry, chokecherry, wild oats, chickweed, and other grasses. They frequent bird feeders, especially those filled with white proso millet. Back to top
The female chooses where to place the nest. She builds the nest in a shrub such as willow, wild rose, ninebark, snowberry, blackberry, or Oregon grape, typically within 3 feet of the ground and often near the edge of the shrub.
The female collects grasses, strips of bark, and leaves which she weaves together with spiderweb or silk from tent caterpillars to form a cup-shaped nest. It takes the female about 5–7 days to complete the nest. The nest is about 3.5 inches in diameter with a smaller inner cup about 2 inches across.
|Clutch Size:||3-4 eggs|
|Number of Broods:||1-2 broods|
|Egg Length:||0.7-0.8 in (1.7-2.1 cm)|
|Egg Width:||0.5-0.6 in (1.3-1.5 cm)|
|Incubation Period:||11-14 days|
|Nestling Period:||9-11 days|
|Egg Description:||Pale blue to faint greenish-blue or white.|
|Condition at Hatching:||Naked with sparse gray down scattered along spine and head. Eyes closed.|
Lazuli Buntings spend much of their time low in the understory, hopping on the ground, perching on shrubs, or making short flights between shrubs with rapid wingbeats. Males arrive on breeding grounds a few days before females and perch conspicuously on taller shrubs at territory boundaries to advertise their presence. When a female arrives in a male’s territory he follows and sings near her until they form a pair bond. Pairs are mostly monogamous during the breeding season, but some individuals seek out additional mates, a phenomenon known as extra-pair copulation. Once paired within their territory, males can be quite aggressive and often attack or chase intruding males. While chasing intruders, males make fast and erratic flights through the understory and often fly upward while singing. Males and females also raise their crown feathers, flick their tails, and chip to threaten intruders. Just before migrating south for the winter, individuals form small flocks and start to molt some of their feathers. They stop on their way south in southern Arizona, southern New Mexico, and northern Sonora, Mexico, to complete their molt. They stay at these “molting hotspots” for 1–2 months before continuing farther south for the winter. Back to top
Lazuli Buntings are common throughout the West and their numbers were fairly stable between 1966 and 2015, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 5.6 million birds, with 86% spending some part of the year in the U.S., 97% in Mexico, and 14% breeding in Canada. The species rates a 9 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, and is not on the 2016 State of North America's Birds' Watch List. As a cup-nesting species, Lazuli Buntings are vulnerable to Brown-headed Cowbirds, which lay their eggs in the nests of other species and rely on the unsuspecting parents (the hosts) to raise cowbird young at the expense of their own. Back to top
Greene, Erick, Vincent R. Muehter and William Davison. (2014). Lazuli Bunting (Passerina amoena), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.
Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. (2020). Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2020. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2020.
North American Bird Conservation Initiative. (2016). The State of North America's Birds 2016. Environment and Climate Change Canada, Ottawa, Ontario.
Partners in Flight (2017). Avian Conservation Assessment Database. 2017.
Sauer, J. R., D. K. Niven, J. E. Hines, D. J. Ziolkowski Jr., K. L. Pardieck, J. E. Fallon, and W. A. Link (2017). The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966–2015. Version 2.07.2017. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD, USA.
Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, USA.