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Male Indigo Buntings Singing

indigo bunting1B0A0717As with many species of birds, only male Indigo Buntings sing. Their distinctive paired notes are often broadcast from the top of a tree during the breeding season. This song serves as a “keep out” signal to other male buntings, as well as a means of attracting a female. (To hear the Indigo Bunting’s song, go to

While some birds hatch knowing the songs they will sing as adults, most songbirds begin learning their songs while still in the nest. They listen to adults, either their fathers or neighboring males, singing around them. According to Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, about 80% of first-year males in their first spring season copy the song of an older neighboring territorial male. Following fledging, young birds attempt to replicate these songs, practicing until they have matched their tutor’s song.

During the breeding season, Indigo Bunting song rates vary with stage of nesting. The greatest frequency occurs in unmated males (680 songs per hour). During nest-building, the frequency drops to 24 songs per hour, but increases once the female has completed laying eggs.

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6 responses

  1. Alice Pratt

    I wonder why most of the females don’t sing? When you hear GHOs dueting, those are a male & female? The Buntings sure are beautiful! I’d love to see them more, especially Painted Buntings

    June 24, 2019 at 9:34 am

  2. I have read (somewhere! possibly last year) that the female indigo bunting does sing back to the male…Have you ever read or heard that? I thought I saw a female in a tree with the Male indigo…singing back to the male…it seemed too early in the spring to be an immature

    June 24, 2019 at 2:46 pm

  3. I’m afraid only male Indigo Buntings sing!

    June 24, 2019 at 6:06 pm

  4. Bill On The Hill

    Thanks Mary… I first came across these strikingly beautiful birds in a WMA over in the East Topsham/Groton area some years ago now. I did have my tripod & camera gear that day along with my brand new at the time EF 400mm f/5.6 lens & came away with some outstandings shots too. I have since seen these birds around the house as well.
    Blue birds don’t hold a candle to the buntings striking blue color…
    Bill… :~)

    June 24, 2019 at 7:53 pm

  5. I saw an indigo bunting chase another indigo bunting into a window. Then, with the stunned bird on the ground, the other bunting pecked it in the head until it was dead.

    June 30, 2019 at 9:14 am

  6. Both males? Wow. Territoriality this time of year when feeding young is fierce! I didn’t know it was that fierce, however. Thank you for sharing this.

    June 30, 2019 at 11:20 am

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