Indigo Buntings

(Passerina cyanea)

Indigo Buntings are a beautiful Indigo blue when the sun reflects off the male and one persistent singer.

Singing well into the summer when most birds have fallen silent.

While this bird appears to love singing, he's not especially melodic.

One song may sound like another, but individual birds vary greatly in melody and sequence.

This species of bunting appear to be increasing in geographic range and density.

Geographic Range:

Indigos breed throughout eastern North America from the Great Plains eastward, south of the coniferous forest region. There are also some breeding populations in the western United States, including Utah, Arizona and California.

They winter in the coastal regions of Mexico, Central America, northern South America and the Caribbean.

Male Indigo Bunting


These Buntings breed in brushy and weedy habitats along the edges of farmed land, woods, road, power lines, railways and riparian habitats. They also breed in clearings in open deciduous woodlands, in weedy or abandoned agricultural fields, and in swamps.

During migration they look for open grasslands and leafy trees similar to those in their winter habitat.

In winter, buntings choose open habitats, such as weedy fields, citrus orchards, savannas, weedy croplands and low second growth.


Buntings are socially monogamous. However, pairs only associate until incubation begins, and may switch partners within a single breeding season. Fertilizations outside of a breeding pair are not uncommon and approximately 15% of males have more than one mate.

Males do not sing often in courtship, but they do follow their mate around during the nest building and laying periods, often chasing other males away.

Indigo buntings breed between May and September, with most activity occurring June through August.

They may raise more than one brood per season, and may switch nests or mates between broods. The female chooses the nest site and builds the nest, which may take up to eight days. Nests are built in shrubs in fields or at the edges of woods, roadsides and railways.

Female Indigo Bunting

They are constructed of leaves, grasses, stems and strips of bark. After the nest is complete, the female lays 1 to 4 (usually 3 or 4) white eggs. One egg is laid each day, soon after sunrise.

The female begins incubating after the last egg is laid. Incubation lasts for 11 to 14 (usually 12 to 13) days.

The male does not generally help with incubation or raising the chicks

The female broods the chicks for the first few days after they hatch. She also feeds the chicks insects and removes their fecal sacs from the nest.

The chicks leave the nest 8 to 14 days after hatching, and become independent about 3 weeks after fledging. Indigo buntings are sexually mature at one year old.

The female chooses the nest site and builds the nest. The chicks leave the nest 8 to 14 days after hatching, and become independent about 3 weeks after fledging.


Buntings are generally solitary. During the breeding season, males establish and defend a territory 0.4 to 8 ha in size. Each territory may hold one or more females.

During the winter, indigo buntings roost in a flock at night, but spend the days foraging alone or in small groups.

There appears to be no dominance in hierarchy within these groups.

Indigo buntings are migratory, and may fly as far as 2000 miles between their wintering and breeding grounds. They leave their breeding grounds in September and October, and leave their wintering grounds to return in late April and May.

They migrate largely at night.

Male Indigo Bunting

Diet Habits:

During the breeding season, Indigo's eat small spiders and insects, seeds of grasses and herbs, and berries. Major food items taken include caterpillars, grasshoppers, bugs, beetles, seeds and berries.

In winter, buntings eat small seeds, buds, and some insects. Their main food in winter is small seeds of grasses. They also frequent feeders, and eat the seeds of rice in rice fields.

Indigo buntings do not appear to drink frequently, and may obtain sufficient water from their diet.

Indigo's feed alone during the breeding season and in flocks during the winter. They do not appear to store food for later consumption.

Indigo Buntings and Other Common Birds

Native Trees for Protection

Native Shrubs for Food and Nesting

Native Grasses for Nesting and Food

Create a Wildlife Habitat

Bird, Butterflies, Gardens and more. To start getting your weekly 'Gardening For Wildlife' newsletter, sign up below.

Enter your E-mail Address
Enter your First Name (optional)

Don't worry — your e-mail address is totally secure.
I promise to use it only to send you Gardening For Wildlife.
Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.