Let’s Talk Birds: Indigo Buntings

By Donna L. Cole

It’s another of those birds that makes me question if people are just messing with me.  They’ve seen them. They’ve shared photos of them.  They say the bird exists here – as in right here in the Four Rivers Heritage Area (during the warmer months).  In fact, I’ve even been told one of these birds frequents the campus of my daughter’s school, where I spend a lot of time  –  looking for birds.  And yet, here I am without any sightings of my own.  For the record, I’m not an indigo bunting denier.  I believe.

Let’s talk indigo buntings.  Like the other migratory birds I’ve written about, this one also spends its winters in warm climates.  And yes, once again, it’s the male that carries the colorific chromosome that gives them their stunning blue plumage.   Females, eh – not so much.  Here’s an interesting thought – according to the Raptor Resource Project, “We know that male birds conserve more sex-linked traits and pass them on to sons and daughters, but male plumage is more complicated than it appears.  Recent work published in the journal Evolution indicates that female birds were once as flashy as males. We think that sexual selection drove male color evolution (females prefer colorful males), and natural selection drove female loss of color (brighter females and young were more likely to be spotted by predators and competitors).”

Where can you see this magnificent migrant?  I sure would like to know.  According to the National Audubon Society, “Brushy pastures, bushy wood edges. For nesting favors roadsides, old fields growing up to bushes, edges of woodlands, and other edge habitats such as along rights-of-way for powerlines or railroads. Also in clearings within deciduous woods, edges of swamps. In the west, usually near streams.”

With all of those habitats, you should be able just about anywhere, right? Good luck and please do let me know when and where you have in the comments below.

Photo below: Male Indigo Bunting. Credit: National Park Service

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