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!):
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.