I thought our Indigo Buntings had left. It's probably been three weeks since I've seen them at our Nyjer seed feeders. Turns out that they've just moved to the field area of our property. They must like some of the wild grasses that are coming into seed.
The interesting thing about this? They leave our yard EVERY YEAR the first week of August. I went back through my phenology. Now I suspect that they hadn't actually left, they had just abandoned the seed in the feeders for the fresh, tasty new grass seed. So much for that phenology record!
I'll have to check the field better next August. I tend to avoid walking through our field in the summer - I'm afraid of disturbing (or worse yet stepping) on nests.
According to Minnesota birder and author Bob Janssen, the majority of Indigo Buntings are on the move in early to mid-September here in Minnesota. (his book, "Birds of Minnesota" is a phenomenal resource)
When I took the photo below I thought it was a female Indigo Bunting. It was a slightly overcast day and the bird was a fairly good distance away (and of course, no binocs on me). When I went through the photos I was delighted to realize that it was a first-year male Indigo Bunting. Look how nicely his blue feathers are coming in. He reminds me a bit of a mini-bluebird fledgling. Might be one of the cuter juvenile birds that I've ever seen. And don't you just love the red thing sticking out of his head? Had to laugh when I saw how perfectly (or imperfectly depending on how you consider such things) the fruit was placed.
Indigo Buntings aren't picky eaters. They pretty much eat everything: seeds, berries, fruit, and all types of insects.
There are two really cool things about Indigo Buntings:
1) they migrate at night using the stars for navigation
2) they don't learn their calls or songs from their parents, but rather neighboring buntings, and almost always just the males
The species has been moving gradually north, probably in conjunction with warming average temperatures, and can even be found periodically in Europe. It didn't say, but I'm guessing that the European sightings are the result of escaped caged birds. Apparently they're popular as pets in Europe, probably due to their beautiful singing voice.
Here in the States, they're found nearly everywhere except the Rockies and westward. They're also moving into southeastern Canada.