FOR THE BIRDS The Indigo Bunting

Jun 3, 2024 | Life at Albemarle Plantation

by David Schleeper 

The heat, the humidity, the mosquitoes; all are indications that summer is here, even if the calendar says three more weeks. However, if you walk outside early in the morning, you’ll hear the most convincing evidence of all that summer has arrived. Ignoring the grackles, robins, and various woodpeckers, you can make out the cheerful song of the most colorful summer resident, the Indigo Bunting. 

Arriving gradually throughout May and enjoying the Plantation through mid-September, these small but bright blue birds will invite themselves to brushy areas or wood lines throughout our neighborhood. The electric blue coloring comes not from pigments in the birds’ feathers, but from microscopic structures within the males’ feathers that refract and reflect blue light in the same manner that causes the sky to look blue. So, while the males are strikingly bright blue, especially on a sunny day, the females remain a dull brown color and can be difficult to identify. 

They become a bit territorial during the nesting season (now), so don’t expect to find a flock of Indigo Buntings. The best way to spot one of the blue streakers is to start by identifying its song, easily done by using an app on your phone and looking towards the treetops. If you get the opportunity to hear one sing, the odds are that he is perched high in a tree or other structure with elevation. Or use this link to listen to an Indigo Bunting right now. 

Unfortunately, these birds are a bit uncommon on feeders, but it does happen. Their favorite foods include Nyjer and thistle seeds. After the eggs have hatched, live meal worms will be in high demand. Be sure to have your squirrel baffle in place, otherwise you’ll be feeding the mammals. 

PRO TIP: I’ve had consistent luck spotting Indigo Buntings behind our boat storage lot. You read that right. 

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