Indigo Bunting

photo by Phil Swanson

Passerina cyanea
L 5 1/2″ (14 cm).

Song or calls:
Listen (UNL audios)

Song is series of varied high-pitched paired phrases, “fire fire here here where where.”

Description: Smaller in size than Blue Grosbeak, and bill is much smaller. Adult male is deep blue overall with some black in wings and tail; lacks wing bars. Winter males are mostly brown with some blue showing on rump, wings, and underparts. Female is dull brown above; buffy below; faint streaking on breast; and indistinct wing bars. Immatures resemble female.

Bird Map
Habitat: Relatively open floodplain and upland forests, forest edges, shrubby areas, and second-growth or disturbed vegetation.

Where in Nebraska: Uncommon spring and fall migrant and summer resident in eastern Nebraska. Local breeder in west. Western limits confused by hybridization with Lazuli Bunting.

Status: Range appears to be expanding in the west and southwestern U.S.

Field Notes: Males sing well into August, later than most other songbirds.

Fun Facts: Indigo Buntings migrate at night and use stars for orientation. They can return to their natal breeding grounds even after being held captive and released in a different location.

female Indigo Bunting - photo by Phil Swanson Indigo Bunting - NEBRASKAland Magazine/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
(click image for larger view)