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.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Do We Have Indigo Buntings in Michigan?

That Scott's birdseed commercial talks about getting more birds like indigo buntings. Do we have those birds? I feed Wild Birds Unlimited Safflower and Thistle. Will they come to that? Susan ~Williamston, MI

Location, location, location. The Indigo Bunting Passerina cyanea can be seen all over Michigan during their migration in spring and fall and like to nest in a dense growth of shrubbery or weedy habitats between woods and old fields.

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

At certain times of the year I spot indigos at my feeders eating Nyger Thistle and the Wild Birds Unlimited No-Mess blend which has the sunflower chips, peanuts, and millet without the hulls. Some customers enjoy them all through breeding season because they have the right habitat.

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. While in Michigan, the birds live a solitary life defending their territory and hunting alone or with a mate.
The female does 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 usually raise one or two broods before they head down south again to winter in huge flocks that forage together in the day and roost together at night.

Indigos like a variety of food, including small seeds, nuts, berries, insects, mosquitoes, flies, aphids, small spiders, buds, goldenrod, thistle, grasses, and herbs. At your feeders you should spot them eating your Safflower and Nyger thistle. You can also feed them apple slices, suet, millet, peanuts, or berries.

Payne, Robert B. 2006. Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online:


Anonymous said...

3 male Indigo Buntings spotted May 11, 2018 in Mancelona, Michigan at my black oil sunflower seed feeder. I don't remember seeing these birds before. An amazing migration from Central America for such a small bird.

Dianna Calandro said...

Spotted two males may 13 at feeders. Sterling heights Michigan. Have never had them before, don't know if they will stay. I do have the right habitat for them.

Anonymous said...

Just saw a male at my mixed blend feeder May 14,2018 in Marquette Michigan in the Upper Peninsula. I saw one a few years ago also, but only once. I hope I have the pleasure of his company for a while.