One of the advantages of stocking backyard bird feeders with seeds throughout the year is that you give yourself the opportunity of enjoying the beauty of birds that do not winter in Georgia. During the last couple of weeks, many bird enthusiasts have been treated to the sight of rose-breasted grosbeaks dining at their feeders. Meanwhile, a much smaller number homeowners are currently also feeding indigo buntings.
Although the indigo bunting nests across the entire state, it is rarely seen at our bird feeders. However, those that are seen are often spotted during the spring and fall migrations.
According to John James Audubon early in our history, southerners commonly called this bird the indigo-bird. To this day, it is sometimes also referred to as the blue canary. When you see an adult male, you quickly understand why it could easily be mistaken for a canary dipped in blue paint.
During the spring, you have a chance of seeing adult males, immature males, and females. The adult male is truly a stunning bird. It is our only all blue bird. However, adult males often appear in several shades of blue. An adult male’s color is dependent on the direction and intensity of the sunlight bathing its feathers.
An immature male is a bird that hatched the previous year. In the spring, it is cloaked in brown plumage highlighted with patches of blue. They do not develop their indigo plumage until their second year of life.
Females (both adult and immature birds) will appear brown.
The males are the first to arrive at our feeders. Thereafter they are shortly joined by the females.
Typically, the indigo buntings that make their way to our backyards in the spring are loners. In fact, I have never seen more than one indigo bunting at time in my feeding area at this time of the year. However, others have reported small flocks of buntings feeding in their yards.
While indigo buntings will feed at elevated feeders, I have always had the best luck attracting them by scattering seed on the ground.
Indigo buntings feed on a number of small seeds such as white millet and canary seed. On occasion, they will also dine on fresh fruit. They will also eat pecan chips and peanut hearts.
If you have never tried to attract northbound indigo buntings to your yard, why not try to do so this year. Just think you just might have both rose-breasted grosbeaks and indigo buntings feeding in your backyard at the same time. Now that would be something you would long remember!