A Deep, Solid Blue in the Summer Sunlight

By Dave Hanks

There is an eastern cousin to our Lazuli Bunting. This bunting, instead of combining blue, reddish-orange, and white; is a solid blue. Its name? Indigo Bunting! Because it lives in the east and Midwest, we seldom get the chance to see it, although it sometimes hybridizes with the Lazuli where their ranges overlap.

Once on a trip to the Midwest, I observed a small group feeding contently under a bush. Going into a stalking mode, I got quite close. This was done by taking three steps forward – not looking at the birds – setting the tripod down and focusing – then gently taking three more steps and repeating the process. But then “Hanks’ Rule” happened – when ready to photograph, a man walked right up to me and of course the birds scattered. I was a bit frustrated. He just wanted to ask about my camera.

This small 4 to 4 ˝ inch bird prefers woodland edges or brushy fields. It feeds, mainly, on insects in the summer and on seeds in the winter. The female, who is mostly brown, is the worker. She builds the nest and cares for the young. The male is usually displaying his brilliant colors, which are acquired in the second year.

Indigos are solitary during the breeding season, but form large flocks to migrate. The migratory route is about 2000 miles and is done at night. They come north in late April and early May – returning south in September or early October. The nighttime migration habit has been hard on this species. Colliding with building in the dark has caused a decline in this bird’s population numbers.

(A brilliant blue specimen)