Indigo Buntings Are Back

It is April 29 at Land Between the Lakes, Kentucky.

They’ve been back for several days, the Indigo Buntings, our delightful deep blue “indigo birds.” Males are singing like crazy as they set up their territories in shrubby clearings surrounded by forest. I was lucky to find a cooperative male this morning, and he provided me with a splendid video portrait (be sure to look for his breath condensing in the second clip in the series!):

placeholder image for Indigo Bunting clip

The male’s lively but rather unmusical song is high-pitched and strident, and usually contains at least several paired phrases: see, sweet-sweet, chew-chew, seeit-seeit. Males in a “neighborhood” usually share the same song pattern or theme. When a first year male arrives to form a territory, he will copy the song of a neighbor and then sing that one song theme throughout his life.

Here is a recording of an Indigo Bunting that I made in New York way back in 1989, when I first began sound recording. Note how this male varies his song length by dropping some of the terminal notes (the last song is the longest):

Songs of an Indigo Bunting where the male varies his song length by dropping terminal notes in some songs. Recorded by Lang Elliott near Ithaca, New York, July 29, 1989.


  1. Excellent videos! I once saw a male singing on fence post at Russ Forest in Volinia, MI. It was such a lovely sight. Yes, I did see the breath condensing of the one in the video. The last song in the recording is longer than any song I’ve ever heard.

  2. Thanks for sharing such a great video. The indigo buntings are still moving north. I just spotted a pair in my back yard today (5/1/2011) in Findlay, Ohio.

  3. I was happy to sight a pair of indigos on my sunrise walk this a.m. When I was searching more info. online to learn a few facts I found your webpage. Amazing photography, thanks for putting such a beautiful site out there to share.

  4. Wow, that is really cool seeing his breath as he singing. Certainly a wonderful bird that has just come back here in the New River Gorge area of WV. Where there were none yesterday there are several around today.
    The Indigo bunting in the video has a very short song to what I am used to hearing in the eastern part of WV. There is a small population of Indigo buntings in Washington County, MD that have a really weird ending to there songs. I will have to post an example.
    A delightful post,

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