We’ve recently been asked how you can attract Indigo Buntings to your yard. Our Facebook fan Valorie asked the following question, since Indigo Buntings are new to her backyard: We’ve had 3 of these beauties in the yard (never have before), is there a way to get them to stay? Do they eat anything special that I can put out for them?
What a wonderful question, Valorie. Thank you for asking! As it turns out, there are at least six common types of buntings in the U.S., including the well-loved Painted Bunting, Indigo Bunting, Snow Bunting, Lazuli Bunting, Varied Bunting and Lark Bunting. For the purpose of answering your question and learning more about the Indigo Bunting, we’re going to focus on the Indigo Bunting in this article.
The Indigo Bunting is a beautiful bird common throughout most of the U.S., from Maine to the southeastern tip of California, although they spend the winter in Central America. Often confused with the Blue Grosbeak, the Indigo Bunting is all blue with black wing edges while the Blue Grosbeak has obvious rusty bars on its wings.
When you look for the Indigo Bunting, look high and low because these birds can be found foraging on the ground or picking insects from leaves at any height on a tree. During the warm summer months, the Indigo Bunting forages alone for small seeds, buds, berries and insects including caterpillars, grasshoppers, aphids, cicadas and beetles. During the cold winter months their diet changes to mostly seeds with occasional insects. Indigo Buntings also like to eat blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, serviceberries and elderberries. Plant berry shrubs in your backyard to help attract these beautiful blue buntings!
Indigo Buntings produce two broods each year and nest along roadsides, in fields or on the edge of forests. Preferring to nest in a concealed location near the ground, their nests can be found three feet above the ground and tucked between the fork of intertwining branches.
It seems one of the Indigo Bunting’s favorite pastimes is singing along the roadside. When you find yourself driving along rural roads, open your window for the chance to hear their bouncey song. Indigo Buntings can sing for hours at a time and are quite active around dawn when they sing up to 200 songs per hour and continue the day with about one song per minute. Each bunting’s song is slightly different because 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.”
Because Indigo Buntings tend to be shy at feeders, choose a caged tube feeder to protect these beauties from larger birds. Fill your feeder with Nyjer seed or whole sunflower hearts, or sprinkle a few mealworms in a hanging hopper or platform feeder, to attract Indigo Buntings to your backyard. Enjoy your beautiful birds and Happy Birding!
Sources and Interesting Links:
“Indigo Bunting,” All About Birds, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 2015. 7 Jun. 2016: <https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Indigo_Bunting/id>.
“Indigo Bunting,” Audubon Guide to North American Birds. 7 Jun. 2016: <http://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/indigo-bunting>.