How to Attract Indigo Buntings to Your Backyard

Male Indigo Buntings are distinctive species of songbird with a bright blue body and a darker indigo shaded head found primarily in the eastern half United States. Spotting one of them is always a treat, and if you open that window you can enjoy their sweet song, as well. If you want to know how to attract Indigo Buntings to your backyard, you need to cultivate an environment that they prefer.

The habitat you create is what attracts different types of birds to your backyard, more than any other factor. Creating an environment that is friendly to Indigo Buntings will mean making sure they have the kind of food and shelter that they prefer. Stocking their bird houses with small seeds like millet, thistle and nyjer seeds is a good place to start.

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Stocking Indigo Buntings bird houses with their favorite foods is only one part of creating a friendly environment. Let’s take a deeper look into how you can attract this beautiful song bird to your backyard.

About Indigo Buntings

When they migrate south during their non-breeding season, their appearance changes to a mottled blue and brown. However, in the spring and summer when they are found in backyards around the US, it’s their mating season and so the males’ appearance changes. You will be able to see the males colored bright blue all over to attract females.

Mating season also means that they’re looking for good places to nest and eat. This is great news for you if you’re wanting to attract these beauties, since you can set out to create a friendly habitat so that they choose your backyard for their summer home.

Creating a Indigo Bunting Friendly Habitat

When looking at how to attract indigo buntings to your backyard, it’s important to know the kinds of places they prefer. Then you can go about providing that sort of habitat in your yard.

Creating a habitat means more than just putting up a birdfeeder. You will need to make sure that you stock the types of food they like. You will also need to make sure that you provide the kind of space they like for nesting and raising their young.

The males are territorial, much like hummingbirds, during mating season and they will fight each other to defend their territory. So even under ideal conditions, you’re probably not going to get a flock of them in your yard. Just one or two can be a real treat, though, since they’re so vibrant and sing so sweetly.

What Do Indigo Buntings Eat

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The first step in attracting these lovely sparrow-sized birds is giving them stuff they like to eat. They are usually foragers, eating small seeds and insects. Setting up a cage tube feeder stocked with small seeds like millet, thistle and nyjer seeds is a good place to start.

Choosing your seed can be important – not all the things they like to eat are going to be great choices. Millet, for example, is something they love, but so do crows, blackbirds, and over-populated House Sparrows. Thistle is another of their favorites, but it’s also an invasive species so you don’t wat to spread the seed around.

Nyjer seeds are a great choice, since they’re often imported and sterilizing them with heat is part of that process. Another good choice is sunflower chips, which are hulled and sometimes chopped sunflower seeds. They are easy to get at and full of nutrition for the nesting birds.

While they do like seeds, a lot of their diet consists of bugs. These guys love a live insect! This can present some problems when it comes to leaving food for them, since it’s hard to get live insects to stay where you put them. One way you can solve this problem is to set up a platform feeder and stock it with mealworms.

Choosing insect-friendly plants in your landscaping is another way to bring all the buntings to your yard. Planting berry bushes and brambles is another good idea. The berries are a treat for them, and it also works for the other key aspect of attracting Indigo Buntings – it’s a great place for them to make a nest!

Placing Feeders for Indigo Buntings

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Because their feathers are blue due to refracted light, not actual pigmentation, these guys can sometimes be hard to spot. You need the light bouncing off their feathers to give them their distinctive look. Otherwise, they will appear black or brown, which makes them much harder to see let alone identify correctly.

Since good light is necessary to identify them, it’s a good idea to put food out for them in a place that gets a lot of sun. This way you will be able to see clearly when the light shines blue off of their feathers.

Where Do Indigo Buntings Like to Nest

The females do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to homemaking for buntings. They build the nests and stay close to the eggs, doing a lot of work to raise the two broods of young that each pair will have every year. This means you are much less likely to see them, even if their more subdued coloring weren’t much harder to spot than their brighter male counterparts.

Nesting can be the biggest obstacle to getting these guys to stay in your yard. They will ignore nesting boxes in favor of low to the ground bushes or shrubs. If you’ve got tall trees with branches that start high, that will not be as appealing to them.

They also don’t like urban areas. If you’re in the heart of the city, you are probably out of luck when it comes to spotting an Indigo Bunting, let alone getting one to stay nearby.

They do look for spots that are near open spaces, though, so if you live near larger fields or farms you could be in luck. Despite this love of open spaces, they still like cover for their nests and they will not nest in the open if that’s all you’ve got. They are looking for the best of both worlds.

When planting with these birds in mind, a good mix is the way to go. Make sure to include bushes and shrubs in your plan – they particularly seem to prefer blackberry brambles and elderberry bushes. But having open spaces as well as cover will give them the kind of space they prefer.

Other Fun Indigo Bunting Tidbits

These birds are pretty well known to be quite the songbirds. If go for a drive in the country, be sure to open your window to catch a bit of their performance. What you are hearing is likely the male, marking its territory and attracting a mate, and each one has its own unique combination of tweets, cheeps, and trills.

One of the coolest things about these birds is that they migrate at night, using the stars to navigate on their way south for the winter. They spend the colder months in the Caribbean and the northern part of South America.


Songbirds are a treat for any backyard and the Indigo Bunting offers beautiful plumage as well a sweet tune to entertain you. Hopefully, now you have some ideas on how to attract Indigo Buntings to your Backyard.

By creating an environment that meets their family-raising needs, you can enjoy sharing your yard with them.

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