It was a Mother’s Day treat. A bright blue male Indigo Bunting was spotted at my bird feeders consuming some thistle seeds. The best part, mom was there to see it all and share this wonderful and rare experience.
For both of us, it was the first time we had seen a male Indigo Bunting. The bird was possibly more common around New York Harbor decades ago, when its preferred habitat of weedy fields and farmland were more prevalent. Today, the Indigo Bunting is an uncommon migrant and even a more erratic summer resident.
But the birds do love places where forests meet fields, thin thickets that surround cites and suburbs. These weedy edges, hedgerows, and thick brushy roadsides provide a good place for Indigo Bunting to forage, feed, and raise a family.
It was a weedy edge between my meadow and my neighbor’s lawn is where I first saw this blue-feathered bird. What a surprise! My head was spinning, going though all the images of blue-feathered birds. Nothing compares, however, to the stunning solid blue plumage of an adult male Indigo Bunting. So creamy rich, the blue feathers may appear black when viewed against a bright blue sky. As usual in the bird world, females are blander in color, basically brown with a whitish throat, and sometimes a touch of blue on wings, tail, or rump.
The birds are related to finches. If your bird feeding area has both Indigo Buntings and American Goldfinches, then you are living the dream of many birders.
Unfortunately, I’ve not seen the bunting since Sunday. In all likelihood the bird was just passing through. Making a pit stop to feed and relax before heading off on its winged migration. Many spend the winter in far off tropical areas in extreme southeastern Texas, Florida and through Central America and the West Indies. The little birds migrate to brushy rural areas in Eastern North America to breed.
Indigo Buntings prefer the country to city life. Not many can be found nesting in urbanized areas like New York Harbor. But one can always hope that as nature slowly returns to areas surrounding the estuary, there might be a few patches of extensive brushy fields to support a little blue feathered bird family.