The color indigo is described as a deep rich blue, and that is exactly what catches one’s eye at the forest’s edge beginning in the spring and lasting through the warm months of summer here in northern Illinois.
The flash of that stunning blue feathered breeder fluttering across a brown, black and green environment can only mean one thing, that those long-distance migrants, the male indigo buntings, in their alternate plumage, are here for the nesting season.
The breeding range of the indigo bunting stretches from central Texas north across the Great Plains into Canada, east to the Atlantic, and south into central Florida. The indigo bunting winters in the southern half of Florida, the Bahamas, Cuba, southern Mexico, Central America and south into northern South America.
The females and immature indigo buntings show less impressive colors than the breeding males.
The females and immature birds are brown and tan, with some black in the wings, and dark broken streaks on a white and faded tan chest extending down the front of the bird.
The female shows only hints of that famous blue on their shoulders and tail feathers.
These little birds come a long way, about 1,200 miles each way, in their amazing migration just to nest here in our area, where there is suitable habitat of thickets and brushy wooded space bordering open fields and prairies.
While many other migrating birds follow river valleys and other landmarks by day, the indigo bunting uses the celestial map above for navigation making their magical journey on those clear dark starry nights.