Lazuli Buntings: Vibrant Jewels of the West

Updated: May 19, 2021

Get to know lazuli buntings and where to find them. See the males' dazzling and colorful plumage, learn what females look like and how to attract them.

Lazuli buntings are named for the lapis lazuli gemstone. With their intense color, it’s certainly fitting. To continue the gemstone theme, a group of buntings is collectively called a decoration or mural. And the lazuli bunting’s scientific name is Passerina amoena means “beautiful sparrow.” Check out 20 photos of breathtaking blue colored birds.

What Do Male and Female Lazuli Buntings Look Like?

lazuli buntingCourtesy Amanda Scheidler
Male lazuli bunting

With stunning blue-colored feathers, a pumpkin chest and a white belly, lazulis decorate backyards in the West. In addition to their dynamic blue plumage, you can tell a male lazuli bunting by the white bars on its upper wing (one thick and one thin), its cone-shaped bill, its sloping forehead and its notched tail.

Compare this species to blue grosbeaks and bluebirds.

A female lazuli buntingNature Photographers Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo
Female lazuli bunting

A female has a gray-brown body with buff-colored wingbars, a hint of blue on its wings and tail, and a tan breast.

“Lazuli buntings are a sister species to indigo buntings,” says Emma Greig, who is the project leader for Project FeederWatch at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “Indigo buntings are blue all over and live in the East. Where their ranges overlap on the Great Plains, they can breed and hybridize. These two buntings are special because of this hybrid zone, and they are greatly studied.”

Lazulis also have similar features as the painted bunting, just without as many colors.

How to Attract Lazuli Buntings

Lazuli buntings like bushy or brushy areas. “If you want to bring them out of the bushes, put white proso millet seed in your feeders (also a favorite food of indigo buntings), though they’ll also eat sunflower seeds,” Emma says. With the right plants and a bit of luck, they’ll flutter to your home.

Check out 19 berry bushes birders should grow.

Lazuli Bunting Songs and Calls

Male Lazuli BuntingBob Kothenbeutel
A lazuli bunting perches on a tree, ready to sing.

When male lazuli buntings are around 1 year old, they learn to exactly match the song of older males, which is a complex combination of notes that are repeated a few times. “If a bird has an unfamiliar song, then the others can get aggressive,” Emma says. “Acoustically, humans don’t have that fine an ear, but to lazulis, a bird from another territory has a foreign accent.” Males sing not only to define their turf, but also to attract a female. Their calls consist of a harsh spuk or bzzzt.

Lazuli Bunting Nests and Eggs

Once paired, the female weaves a cup-shaped nest and lays three to four pale blue eggs. Pairs may succeed in raising one or two broods, and willingly nest in backyards with native shrubs.

Females weave their nests using common backyard materials and then cement them with spiderwebs and silk from caterpillars. Each nest is less than 4 inches across and takes nearly a week to complete.

Follow these proven tips to attract nesting birds.

Lazuli Bunting Range and Migration

In the fall, lazulis migrate to western Mexico. Their migration is unusual because they molt en route, whereas most birds molt where they breed or over-winter. Learn why birds molt. “They follow the monsoon rains through the desert. It’s very moist, and there are lots of insects while they are there,” Emma says. In summer, look for them in the western states, from California to the Dakotas.

Lazuli Bunting Range Map