About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

How do you attract Indigo Buntings?

As I reported earlier to you, we're still experiencing many visits aday at our home of Orioles on the Lookingglass River. There are reports from neighbors that they have seen Indigo Buntings but we have not. What type of birdseed is best to attract Indigo Buntings? N.H.

Indigo Bunting Passerina cyanea
Order: PASSERIFORMES Family: Cardinals and Grosbeaks (Cardinalidae)

Similar in size to a goldfinch, the male Indigo buntings look blue with black wings, tail, and beak. The females are a soft brown with brown streaks on the breast and a light throat. The young look similar to the female.

When I saw a tiny dark bird on the finch feeder at the Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing store I wasn’t sure what bird it was until the sun hit its feathers. Indigo Buntings are almost black but the diffraction of light through their feathers makes them look blue.

These small bright birds make their way to Michigan from Central America during the spring, and settle in woodland edges and farmlands to nest in the spring and summer. Indigos like a variety of food, including small seeds, nuts, berries, insects, mosquitoes, flies, aphids, small spiders, buds, goldenrod, thistle, grasses, and herbs. At my feeders they like the Nyger Thistle and the No-Mess blend which has the sunflower chips, peanuts, and millet without the hulls.

Down south the birds winter in huge flocks that forage together in the day and roost together at night. During breeding season in the north the birds live a solitary life defending their territory and hunting alone or with a mate. Older male buntings are first to arrive on their Michigan breeding grounds in late April to mid May. They will have already staked out their territories by the time the females arrive about two weeks later.

The females do most of the feeding and caring for the young, while the male defends the nest against intruders. Once the young have fledged the males will teach them to forage, while the female is busy building a new nest for the next brood. Together each pair will raise as many as three broods.
Summertime feeding is so fun! Right now I have a Cardinal out front, a Goldfinch on my window feeder and an oriole at my other window feeder. All their bright colors and beautiful songs are a delight to have up close! I'm glad you have your orioles, I hope you see some buntings soon. Keep me updated.


Anonymous said...

Last year I planed a small Rosemary plant in one of my largest flower gardens. As we have been in a drought, I have been using a watering can and selectively watering only plants which are sere or drooping. When checking out the Rosemary, it appeared to be brown on the inside & I thought it was burning out. To my delight, as I went to water it, I discovered it was a tiny nest inside with one bluish egg. The next morning I checked and there were 2 eggs and today there are three! I had been pulling out plants which had gone to seed, but now I'm leaving the ones in that area so "Momma" won't have to travel far for her food & I did sit down a small bowl of water as everything is so dry. When I approach the nest, she skitters thru the flowers and watches me from the top of my privacy fence. Maybe tomorrow there will be 4 eggs and I can start counting the days until the little buntings hatch!

JB said...

I saw my first indigo bunting today at around 8:28 A.M. and around saw the female today also around 4:48 P.M. wonderful!
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