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Indigo Bunting - Oklahoma's Bluest Bunting

article and photos by Kathryn Mann

I love Indigo Buntings. They are among the most beautiful birds in Oklahoma and their song is especially melodic. Blue is also my favorite color.

Close-up of an Indigo Bunting in Oklahoma
Close up of an Indigo Bunting in Bartlesville, Oklahoma

Though the Indigo Bunting appears blue to the human eye, they are actually a black bird. Their feathers, however, diffract light in such a way that they appear to be blue. In the wild these beautiful creatures live from four to eleven years. They are very small, only about 5 ½ inches in length.

The male Indigo bunting has a beautiful song, which he uses to attract females. The songs are unique to the territory a bunting calls its own. It learns the song from an older male bunting. Buntings return to the same area each year.

The Indigo Bunting migrates south as far as 2,000 miles to South America, Mexico, and the West Indies between August and October. They travel in large flocks at night using the stars for navigation.

Blue Bunting singing in treetop
Male Indigo Buntings spend much of their time at the top of tall trees singing

The Indigo Bunting population is in decline for a number of reasons. The primary cause seems to be that because they migrate at night by the stars, their poor evening vision causes many of them to die by running into tall buildings and radio towers.

Indigo Bunting seen on a treetop with true black color
If the light is just right you can see that the Indigo Bunting is black and not blue  

The male Indigo Bunting makes two major changes when they move to their winter home. First, their feathers turn a yellow-brown like the female, and only a few streaks of blue distinguish the male from the female. Second, they stop singing.

Close-up of a Blue Bunting eating
There is a place I often go to see Indigo Buntings. I sometimes bring along some bird seed and place it below a tree where one is perching. I then stand very quietly and watch it come down to enjoy some nourishment. 

There are many places in Oklahoma where I see Indigo Buntings in the Spring and Summer. This year I have seen between a half and a third less than last year in these areas.

 
 

Comments:

Vinnie      1:09 PM Sat 7/6/2013

We are seeing these guys a lot at Oxley Nature Center in Tulsa.
 


Uplifting Visions
a guide to happiness, good health, and success
Charly Mann in a Hawaiian shirt
by Charly Mann

From the age of seven I have been enchanted with the idea of living happily ever after, and have made it a life quest to find that answer. I have spoken to hundreds of people – usually older and wiser than me, and read countless books and articles on the subject. In my website Uplifting Visions I share what I consider the best insights I have learned about achieving happiness in life.



Oklahoma Birds Listed by Color

Red
House Finch - male (carpodacus mexicanus)
Purple Finch - male (carpodacus purpureus)
Northern Cardinal - male (cardinalis cardinalis)
Painted Bunting - male (passerina ciris)
Summer Tanager - male (piranga rubra)

Orange
Baltimore Oriole - male (icterus galbula)
Orchard Oriole - male (icterus spurius)

Yellow
Yellow Warbler (dendroica petechia )
Baltimore Oriole - female (icterus galbula)
Orchard Oriole - female (icterus spurius)
Summer Tanager - female (piranga rubra)
Yellow Goldfinch - male (carduelis tristis)
Western Kingbird (tyrannus verticalis)
Eastern Meadowlark (sturnella magna)

Green
Malard - male (anas platyrhynchos)
Dark-eyed Junco - female (junco hyemalis)
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (archilochus colubris)
Painted Bunting - female (passerina ciris)
Green Heron (butorides virescens)

Blue
Barn Swallow (hirundo rustica)
Belted Kingfisher (ceryle alcyon)
Blue Jay (cyanocitta cristata)
Blue Grosbeak - male (guiraca caerulea)
Eastern Bluebird (sailia sialis)
Indigo Bunting - male (passerina cyanea)
Purple Martin - male (progne subis)

Grey
Great Blue Heron (ardea herodias)
Carolina Chickadee (poecile carolinensis)
Eastern Screech-Owl (otus asio)
Red-breasted Nuthatch (sitta canadensis)
Grey Catbird (dumetella carolinensis)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (regulus calendula)
Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher (tyrannus forficatus)
White-breasted Nuthatch (sitta carolinensis)
Tufted Titmouse (baelophus bicolor)
American Robin (turdus migratorius)
Northern Mockingbird (mimus polyglottos)
Mississippi Kite (ictinia mississippiensis)
Dickcissel (spiza americana)

Black
American Crow (corvus brachyrhynchos)
Brown-headed Cowbird - male (molothrus ater)
European Starling (sturnus vulgaris)
Common Grackle (quiscalus quiscula)
Red-winged Blackbird - male (agelaius phoeniceus)
Spotted Towhee (pipilo maculatus)
Turkey Vulture (cathartes aura)

Black & White
American Bald Eagle (haliaeetus leucocephalus)
Black-billed Magpie (pica hudsonia)
Downey Woodpecker (picoides pubescens)
Red-Bellied Woodpecker (melanerpes carolinus)
Purple Martin - female (progne subis)
Eastern Kingbird (tyrannus tyrannus)
Dark-eyed Junco - male (junco hyemalis)
Loggerhead Shrike (lanius ludovicianus)

Brown
American Kestrel (falco sparverius)
Blue Grosbeak - female (guiraca caerulea)
Brown-headed Cowbird - female (molothrus ater)
Brown Thrasher (toxostoma rufum)
Common Nighthawk (chordeiles minor)
Carolina Wren (thryothorus ludovicianus)
Cedar Waxwing (bombycilla cedrorum)
Greater Roadrunner (geococcyx californianus)
Killdeer (charadrius vociferus)
Northern Bobwhite (colinus virginianus)
Red-tailed Hawk (buteo jamaicensis)
Cliff Swallow (petrochelidon pyrrhonota)
Horned Lark (eremophila alpestris)
House Finch - female (carpodacus mexicanus)
Northern Flicker (colaptes auratus)
Yellow-billed Cuckoo (coccyzus americanus)
Mourning Dove (zenaida macroura)
Malard - female (anas platyrhynchos)
Purple Finch - female (carpodacus purpureus)
House Sparrow (passer domesticus)
Indigo Bunting - female (passerina cyanea)
Red-winged Blackbird - female (agelaius phoeniceus)
Spotted Sandpiper (actitis macularia)
Upland Sandpiper (bartramia longicauda)
Northern Cardinal - female (cardinalis cardinalis)
Eastern Screech-Owl (otus asio)
Yellow Goldfinch - female (carduelis tristis)
Canada Goose (branta canadensis)

Various
Wild Birds of Northeast OK

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