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It’s in your nature: The ‘blue’ birds, indigo buntings

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    A blue jay is really a beautiful light blue color and rather unappreciated. BARRY REED/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS

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    A male eastern bluebird displays the deep blue head and back, robinlike breast and white belly.

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    A male indigo bunting is an all-blue bird. Seldom seen with darker surroundings, it has a rich indigo color.

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    The same indigo bunting male is now photographed on its typical perch high in a tree, and the blue doesn’t appear as rich with the brighter sky background.

Published May 31. 2019 08:03PM


Most of this column’s readers are quite familiar with two “blue” birds they can find here in the Times News coverage area, the eastern bluebird and the blue jay. The blue jay is the largest and most vocal of the pair and is the lightest blue color. Often seen dominating your feeders, we sometimes don’t appreciate their blue color.

Increasing in numbers and “everybody’s favorite” is the eastern bluebird. Our eastern bluebird is a deeper blue color (males) but only the back, wings, head and tail are blue. The breast is a robinlike brown with a white belly. The bluebird is about 7 inches in size. The female has a pale blue coloration with the same breast and belly colors.

However, there is also an all BLUE bird found here as well. It is the indigo bunting. It is about 5.5 inches in size. Technically it is a blue bird with virtually its whole body covered in deep blue feathers. Its beauty is not always recognized because it has a habit of perching on utility lines or tree tops. Since the sky is the background color we don’t see the deep blue coloration because of that. Indigo buntings will visit your feeders and with the chance of seeing one at eye level, I keep supplying sunflower seeds through May.

The males are very vocal, and like a red-winged blackbird it will fly from perch to perch singing to announce its territory. Quite unlike the beautiful male bunting, the female does not have a blue feather on its body. In fact, in my novice birding days, I flushed a plain brown bird from a nest in a fir tree, and for an hour or so I could not determine what species of bird this was. After flipping through my bird field guide of sparrows and warblers I was convinced I discovered a new species. After observing the nest to see the female return, I finally noticed the beautiful male and my new discovery was no more.

Look for indigo bunting males perched along field edges, fence rows or even on utility lines near these habitats. You seldom see the females unless you follow his flight to some underbrush where she is building the nest. If you are fortunate enough to see this small, tropical-looking bird with that iridescent indigo color you’ll surely mark the first week of May on your 2020 calendar to look for one again.

Test your outdoor knowledge: The most common and widespread salamander in Pennsylvania is the ______ salamander. A. dusky, B. red, C. redback, D. spotted.

Last week’s trivia answer: Quite unusual, both male and female mourning doves feed crop milk, produced in a storage pouch in their gullet for their nestlings’ first week of life.

Contact Barry Reed at




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