Range and Habitat
The indigo bunting (Passerina cyanea) nests in open deciduous forests and parkland from southern Manitoba, across southern Ontario and southwestern Québec to southern New Brunswick; its western counterpart, lazuli bunting (P. amoena), in brush country from southern British Columbia to southern Saskatchewan; lark bunting (Calamospiza melanocorys) breeds locally in the open grassy prairies of southern Alberta, Saskatchewan and southwestern Manitoba; and snow bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis), a circumpolar species, on tundra, wintering in open country in southern Canada and the northern United States.
Male indigo buntings are blue all over; male lazuli buntings have blue heads and backs, 2 white wing bars and cinnamon breasts shading to white on the abdomen. Female indigo and lazuli buntings have quite similar dull brown plumage. The female lazuli bunting has 2 wing bars. Both species are around 14 cm long. Hybrids have been discovered where ranges overlap. Both species are migratory, wintering in Mexico and Central America.
Male lark buntings are all black with large, white wing patches; females are brown with dark streaks and light wing patches. Their numbers and breeding-range boundaries fluctuate considerably from year to year. Males often sing in flight, holding their wings at an angle above the body and circling slowly back to earth while uttering a long and varied song of whistles, trills and buzzes.
Snow bunting males retain their black wings and back but are otherwise almost immaculate in breeding plumage. Females, and males outside the breeding season, are slightly duller. In Canada snow buntings are among the most northerly of nesting birds, breeding up to northern ELLESMERE ISLAND. Flocks of snow buntings are a familiar sight in most of southern Canada in winter, usually over weedy fields and stubble.
Author RICHARD W. KNAPTON Revised: TYLER HOAR
Links to Other Sites
All About Birds
Search this online bird identification guide for information on specific bird species found in North America. Click on the dynamic map of eBird sightings for a magnified view. From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the US.
Canadian Biodiversity Website
A great information source for all budding biologists. Learn about biodiversity theory, natural history, and conservation issues. From McGill’s Redpath Museum.