Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Indigo Bunting

Many of us don't realize how many different birds there are in Missouri with blue feathers. One of my favorites is the one pictured here, the Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea). This little male has been visiting my feeders all week eating black oil sunflower seeds. He seems quite friendly and will land on the feeders to eat while only a few feet from me. These birds are migratory like most songbirds in our area, they head south to Florida and South America during the winter, then when warm weather returns to the Northern regions it will be found as far north as Canada. These birds are small, about sparrow size at 4.5 inches. The species name of "cyanea" means dark or sea blue which is a vary apt name for this lovely little bird. The breeding male is a startling shade of bright blue with dark wings and a somewhat darker crown that can sometimes look purple depending upon the light. The female is not as colorfully marked, she is dark brown on top and lighter brown below with distinct wing bars. Sometimes there will be dark streaking below. These birds will be found near forest edges, along roadsides in fence rows, deciduous woods, and second growth timber. These birds are very vocal and use a series of sounds to communicate with each other, both sexes will call out a loud "chip, chip" when threatened or alarmed. They use a longer more buzzing sound of "zweet" while in flight to locate each other. Their song is a sweet melody of "sweet-sweet chew-chew sweet-sweet". Their main diet is insects, including grasshoppers, spiders, and caterpillars. They will also eat many types of grain seeds that are foraged from the ground. as well as berries. While it is not common for them to do so, they will come to backyard feeders and eat seed, typically millet, but the one pictured here seems to love the black oil sunflower seeds. While driving in the country these are often seen along the roadsides, fluttering in and out of fence rows. Their status is secure, and thankfully so, these are such a beautiful bird and a joy to watch and I feel blessed to have one that is making himself at home in my backyard.

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