Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea)

Indigo Bunting

[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Cardinalidae | [latin] Passerina cyanea | [UK] Indigo Bunting | [FR] Pape indigo | [DE] Indigofink | [ES] Azulito | [NL] Indigo-gors


Monotypic species

Physical charateristics

Close in size and form to Linnet but with more slender tail; 25% smaller and much daintier than Blue Grosbeak. Small, active Nearctic bunting, with quite strong bill. Lacks obvious wing-bars except in juvenile. Breeding male almost wholly deep blue. Winter male, female, and immature mainly buff-brown, often showing little blue and with faint plumage pattern suggesting Carduelis or Carpodacus finch.

Listen to the sound of Indigo Bunting

[audio: Bunting.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 19 cm wingspan max.: 21 cm
size min.: 13 cm size max.: 14 cm
incubation min.: 12 days incubation max.: 14 days
fledging min.: 9 days fledging max.: 14 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 4  


North America : Central, East


Breeds in temperate and warmer Nearctic lowlands, from coniferous forest zone southwards, including upland fringes but excluding most intensively cultivated and grazed areas, deserts, and closed-canopy forest, as well as human residential areas. Inhabits brushy and weedy fringes of cultivated lands, roads, railways, and rivers, as well as woods, where they are open, deciduous, and broken by clearings.


This species builds nests in a variety of low weeds, brambles and shrubs. The female chooses a site within her mate’s territory and does all the nest construction. The nest is cuplike and well hidden, often within a few feet of the ground. Males may have more than one mate, and females may be fertilized by males other than their social mate. Females incubate and feed the young, making up to 50 food delivery trips to the nest per day. Most breeding males have a single female on their territory, but up to 15 percent of the males have two or more females. These birds produce two to four eggs per nest with all incubation by the female. Incubation lasts 12 to 14 days, and young fledge in 9 to 11 days. More than one nest is possible per female per season. Nests are commonly parasitized by the Brown-headed cowbird.

Feeding habits

In breeding season, small spiders and insects, including caterpillars, grasshoppers, bugs and beetles, also seeds of grasses and herbs (thistles Cirsium spp., dandelions Taraxacum spp., goldenrods Solidago spp.), and berries (blueberries Vaccinium spp., strawberries Fragaria spp,, blackberries Rubus spp., elderberries Sambucus canadensis spp.). As determined in samples of stomach contents, feed mainly on insects, such as caterpillars (e.g. browntail moth Euproctis chrysorrhoea, which have noxious hairs that cause dermatitis and respiratory problems in people), small beetles (including canker worms, click beetles, weevils and snout beetles or curulios), bugs, and many grasshoppers, locust borers, aphids and cicadas. Also take weed seeds, grain such as oats, and buds


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Breeds in North America, from south-east Saskatchewan east to New Brunswick and Maine, south to southern New Mexico, Gulf of Mexico coast, and central Florida.
Accidental. Iceland (October 1951, October 1985), Ireland (October 1985). Other records (e.g. Britain 1973, Netherlands 1983, Denmark 1987) regarded as involving escaped birds.
Indigo Bunting status Least Concern


Migratory, all birds wintering south of breeding range, mainly from central Mexico south to Panama, in Bahamas and Greater Antilles. Main autumn departure from north of range begins late August, with peak movement September in northern states, continuing to October further south, and to early November along Gulf of Mexico. Migration on broad front, including movements to West Indies. In spring, main movement northward April to early May, with passage and arrivals from early April in southern states. Most birds are in northernmost breeding areas soon after mid-May.

Distribution map

Indigo Bunting distribution range map

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