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.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Small dark gray and dark blue bird at the feeder

I saw a dark blue bird on the finch feeder this morning. Do you know what it was? ~ East Lansing

Male Indigo Bunting
Indigo Buntings are a dark gray or black bird about the size of a goldfinch. When the sun hits the male his feather structure refracts the sun to make him appear a brilliant indigo blue. In mid-Michigan, we often see them at the finch or sunflower bird feeders.

In the spring the buntings can travel thousands of miles from their southern wintering grounds to their breeding grounds at the top of Florida to the bottom of Canada and as far east as Maine and as far west as Nevada. They will stop in many yards on their journey looking to refuel. Migration takes place in April and May and then again in September and October.
Female Indigo Bunting
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.

The only way to get them to stay the whole summer is if you live in an area where they like to breed. Indigo buntings nest in brushy and weedy habitats along the edges of farmland, woods, roads, and railways. According to Birds of Michigan by Ted Black, “Raspberry thickets are a favored nesting location for many of our Indigo Buntings. The dense, thorny stems provide the nestlings with protection from many predators, and the berries are a convenient source of food.”

So if you live near a woodlot or bike trails you may see the birds year round. Otherwise appreciate these beautiful birds while they visit in the spring and fall.

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