Learn to Identify and Attract Indigo Buntings

The indigo bunting is one of the most gorgeous summer birds in the East. Learn proven tips to attract indigo buntings to your backyard and how to spot them.

What Do Indigo Buntings Eat?

They eat insects, seeds and berries. Though they aren’t common backyard visitors, you can attract indigo buntings with the same food you use for goldfinches—nyjer seed in a thistle feeder. Indigo buntings also love to eat white millet seed.

What Do Indigo Buntings Look Like?

Indigo buntings are about the size of sparrows. You can usually pick them out by their short tails and bills. From a distance males can look black, but as you get closer or see them from a different angle, you’ll see vibrant blue feathers. Females and young indigo buntings are brown, and even adult males are mostly brown in winter, when they are in the tropics. Check out the top 9 most beautiful birds in America.

Nesting Habits

Females do all the work, building a cup-shaped nest lined with grass, then laying three or four eggs. They generally nest in fields or the edges of woods. If you’re near a cornfield, look for them flying in and out. Maybe you’ll even spot a nest! Learn about 8 different kinds of bird nests and how to spot them.

Where to Find Indigo Buntings

Although they’re mostly Eastern summer birds, you can find them in parts of the Southwest as well. Check out 15 common backyard birds you should know.

3 Fascinating Facts About Indigo Buntings

  • Indigo buntings migrate at night. They start flying south for winter around September, using the stars to guide them along their way.
  • People sometimes confuse blue grosbeaks with indigo buntings. Their ranges overlap a bit, but the grosbeaks have a more prominent bill and rufous wingbars.
  • To attract and see both lazuli buntings and indigo buntings, go to the Great Plains, where the two species co-exist and even hybridize. Next, learn all about painted buntings.