Passerina cyanea - (Linnaeus, 1766)
Indigo Bunting
Other English Common Names: indigo bunting
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Passerina cyanea (Linnaeus, 1766) (TSN 179150)
French Common Names: passerin indigo
Spanish Common Names: Colorín Azul
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.103315
Element Code: ABPBX64030
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Birds - Perching Birds
Image 11050

© Jeff Nadler

 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Aves Passeriformes Cardinalidae Passerina
Genus Size: C - Small genus (6-20 species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1998. Check-list of North American birds. Seventh edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. [as modified by subsequent supplements and corrections published in The Auk]. Also available online: http://www.aou.org/.
Concept Reference Code: B98AOU01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Passerina cyanea
Taxonomic Comments: Hybridizes with P. amoena where ranges overlap in the Great Plains, but the two species are locally sympatric without interbreeding in the Southwest; they have been regarded as conspecific by a few authors, but are regarded as a superspecies by AOU (1998). Baker and Baker (1991) present evidence that indicates low levels of hybridization and introgression with assortative mating.

However, a recent phylogenetic study of the mitochondrial cytochrome-b gene indicates that these two hybridizing species are not sister taxa at all; instead, P. amoena is most closely related to the much larger Blue Grosbeak (Guiraca caerulea) and P. cyanea is basal to the Passerina-guiraca group (Klicka et al. 2001).

LINARIA is an invalid generic name for North America buntings (Banks and Browning 1995).
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 09Apr2016
Global Status Last Changed: 03Dec1996
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by inspection
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Nation: United States
National Status: N5B (19Mar1997)
Nation: Canada
National Status: N5B,N5M (29Jan2018)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Alabama (S2N,S5B), Arizona (S3), Arkansas (S5B), California (SNRB), Colorado (S3S4B), Connecticut (S5B), Delaware (S5B), District of Columbia (S4S5N,S5B), Florida (SNRB,SNRN), Georgia (S5), Idaho (SNA), Illinois (S5), Indiana (S4S5B), Iowa (S5B,S5N), Kansas (S5B), Kentucky (S5B), Louisiana (S5B), Maine (S5B), Maryland (S5B), Massachusetts (S4B), Michigan (S5), Minnesota (SNRB), Mississippi (S5B), Missouri (SNRB), Montana (S4B), Navajo Nation (S3B), Nebraska (S4), Nevada (S2S3), New Hampshire (S5B), New Jersey (S4B), New Mexico (S5B,S5N), New York (S5B), North Carolina (S5B), North Dakota (SNRB), Ohio (S5), Oklahoma (S5B), Pennsylvania (S4B), Rhode Island (S4B), South Carolina (SNRB), South Dakota (S4B), Tennessee (S5), Texas (S5B), Utah (S2S3B), Vermont (S5B), Virginia (S5), Washington (SNA), West Virginia (S5B), Wisconsin (S5B), Wyoming (S3B)
Canada Manitoba (S4B), New Brunswick (S3B,S3M), Nova Scotia (S1?B), Ontario (S4B), Prince Edward Island (SNA), Quebec (S4B), Saskatchewan (S4B)

Other Statuses

IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent Comments: BREEDING: southeastern British Columbia and southeastern Saskatchewan across southern Canada to southern Maine, southern New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia, south to southern New Mexico, southern Texas, Gulf Coast, and central Florida; sporadic breeding southwest to southern California, southeastern Arizona, and southwestern Utah (Payne 1992, AOU 1998). NON-BREEDING: Nayarit, San Luis Potosi, and Bermuda south to Panama and northwestern Colombia; Bahamas, Greater Antilles (including the Virgin Islands), Cayman Islands; rarely from southern Texas, Gulf Coast, and Florida south (AOU 1998).

Short-term Trend Comments: North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) data indicate a significant population decline in eastern North America, 1966-1988 and 1978-1988 (Sauer and Droege 1992).

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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Global Range: BREEDING: southeastern British Columbia and southeastern Saskatchewan across southern Canada to southern Maine, southern New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia, south to southern New Mexico, southern Texas, Gulf Coast, and central Florida; sporadic breeding southwest to southern California, southeastern Arizona, and southwestern Utah (Payne 1992, AOU 1998). NON-BREEDING: Nayarit, San Luis Potosi, and Bermuda south to Panama and northwestern Colombia; Bahamas, Greater Antilles (including the Virgin Islands), Cayman Islands; rarely from southern Texas, Gulf Coast, and Florida south (AOU 1998).

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
NOTE: The maps for birds represent the breeding status by state and province. In some jurisdictions, the subnational statuses for common species have not been assessed and the status is shown as not-assessed (SNR). In some jurisdictions, the subnational status refers to the status as a non-breeder; these errors will be corrected in future versions of these maps. A species is not shown in a jurisdiction if it is not known to breed in the jurisdiction or if it occurs only accidentally or casually in the jurisdiction. Thus, the species may occur in a jurisdiction as a seasonal non-breeding resident or as a migratory transient but this will not be indicated on these maps. See other maps on this web site that depict the Western Hemisphere ranges of these species at all seasons of the year.
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NN, NV, NY, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY
Canada MB, NB, NS, ON, PE, QC, SK

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.

Range Map Compilers: NatureServe, 2002; WILDSPACE 2002


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
AZ Coconino (04005)
WY Albany (56001), Big Horn (56003), Carbon (56007), Crook (56011), Fremont (56013), Goshen (56015), Natrona (56025), Platte (56031), Sheridan (56033)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
10 Popo Agie (10080003)+, Greybull (10080009)+, Upper Tongue (10090101)+, Redwater (10120203)+, Pathfinder-Seminoe Reservoirs (10180003)+, Middle North Platte-Casper (10180007)+, Middle North Platte-Scotts Bluff (10180009)+, Lower Laramie (10180011)+, Horse (10180012)+*
15 Lower Little Colorado (15020016)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: A small bird (bunting).
Diagnostic Characteristics: See Kaufman (1989) for information on identification.
Reproduction Comments: Clutch size is three-six (commonly three-four). Sometimes produces two broods per year. Incubation lasts 12-13 days, by female. Young leave nest at 9-13 days; male may or may not feed nestlings and/or fledged young. Males sometimes have more than one female nesting on their territories.
Ecology Comments: In Costa Rica and Mexico, sometimes alone or in small groups, more often in flocks of 20 or more that move to areas with seeding grasses (Stiles and Skutch 1989, Rappole and Warner 1980).
Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: Y
Mobility and Migration Comments: Males generally appear in nesting range in May (Terres 1980). Arrives in Costa Rica early to mid-October, departs by late April (Stiles and Skutch 1989).
Palustrine Habitat(s): Riparian
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Cropland/hedgerow, Old field, Shrubland/chaparral, Woodland - Hardwood
Habitat Comments: BREEDING: Deciduous forest edge and clearings, open woodland, second growth, shrubby areas, scrub, cultivated lands, weedy fields, orchards, hedgerows, overgrown fencerows; avoids mature forests. Nests in crotch of saplings, small bushes, weeds, thickets, vine patch, canebrakes, sometimes in trees, to about four meters above ground in dense cover. Most settle and breed more than two kilometers from their natal site; locally hatched birds comprised 1.6% and 13% of the breeding population in areas of 10 and 4 sq km (Payne 1991). Commonly returns to territory used in previous year (Payne and Payne 1993). NON-BREEDING: In migration, open grasslands, bushes, and leafy trees (Payne 1992). In winter, weedy fields, cropland, and orchards; savanna; and low second growth (Payne 1992).
Adult Food Habits: Frugivore, Granivore, Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Frugivore, Granivore, Invertivore
Food Comments: Eats insects, weed seeds, small grains, small fruits; forages in trees, shrubbery, on ground (Terres 1980).
Adult Phenology: Diurnal
Immature Phenology: Diurnal
Length: 14 centimeters
Weight: 15 grams
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Group Name: Passerines

Use Class: Breeding
Subtype(s): Foraging Area, Nest Site, Nesting Colony
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Evidence of historical breeding, or current and likely recurring breeding, at a given location, minimally a reliable observation of one or more breeding pairs in appropriate habitat. Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single breeding events outside the normal breeding distribution.

Mapping Guidance: Breeding occurrences include nesting areas as well as foraging areas.

For swallows and other species that have separate nesting and foraging areas, separations are based on nest sites or nesting areas, not to locations of foraging individuals. For example, nesting areas separated by a gap larger than the separation distance are different occurrences, regardless of the foraging locations of individuals from those nesting areas. This separation procedure is appropriate because nesting areas are the critical aspect of swallow breeding occurrences, tend to be relatively stable or at least somwhat predictable in general location, and so are the basis for effective conservation; foraging areas are much more flexible and not necessarily static.

Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Significant dispersal and associated high potential for gene flow among populations of birds separated by tens of kilometers (e.g., Moore and Dolbeer 1989), and increasing evidence that individuals leave their usual home range to engage in extrapair copulations, as well as long foraging excursions of some species, make it difficult to circumscribe occurrences on the basis of meaningful population units without occurrences becoming too large. Hence, a moderate, standardized separation distance has been adopted for songbirds and flycatchers; it should yield occurrences that are not too spatially expansive while also accounting for the likelihood of gene flow among populations within a few kilometers of each other.

Be careful not to separate a population's nesting areas and foraging areas as different occurrences; include them in the same occurrence even if they are more than 5 km apart. Mean foraging radius (from nesting area) of Brown-headed Cowbird females was 4.0 kilometers in California, 1.2 kilometers in Illinois-Missouri (Thompson 1994). Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Brewer's Blackbirds, and probably Red-winged Blackbirds all forage up to 1.6 kilometers away from breeding colony (Willson 1966, Horn 1968). In one study, Brewer's Blackbirds were found as far as 10 kilometers from nesting area (Williams 1952), but this may be unusual.

For swallows and other parrerines with similar behavioral ecology, separation distance pertains to nest sites or nesting colonies, not to locations of foraging individuals. For example, nesting areas separated by a gap of more than 5 km are different occurrences, regardless of the foraging locations of individuals from those nesting areas. This separation procedure is appropriate because nesting areas are the critical aspect of swallow breeding occurrences, tend to be relatively stable or at least somwhat predictable in general location, and so are the basis for effective conservation; foraging areas are much more flexible and not necessarily static.

Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single breeding events outside the normal breeding distribution.

Unsuitable habitat: Habitat not normally used for breeding/feeding by a particular species. For example, unsuitable habitat for grassland and shrubland birds includes forest/woodland, urban/suburban, and aquatic habitats. Most habitats would be suitable for birds with versatile foraging habits (e.g., most corvids).

Date: 10Sep2004
Author: Hammerson, G.

Use Class: Migratory stopover
Subtype(s): Foraging Area, Roost Site
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: For most passerines: Evidence of recurring presence of migrating individuals (including historical) and potential recurring presence at a given location; minimally a reliable observation of 25 birds in appropriate habitat.

For swallows: Evidence of recurring presence of migrating flocks (including historical) and potential recurring presence at a given location; minimally a reliable observation of 100 birds in appropriate habitat (e.g., traditional roost sites).

Occurrences should be locations where the species is resident for some time during the appropriate season; it is preferable to have observations documenting presence over at least 7 days annually.

EOs should not be described for species that are nomadic during nonbreeding season: e.g., Lark Bunting.

Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single events.

Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Separation distance somewhat arbitrary but intended to define occurrences of managable size for conservation purposes. Occurrences defined primarily on the basis of areas supporting concentrations of birds, rather than on the basis of distinct populations.

For swallows and other species with similar behavioral ecology, the separation distance pertains to communal roost sites rather than to foraging areas; the former tend to be more stable and specific over time than the latter.

Date: 03Sep2004
Author: Hammerson, G., and S. Cannings

Use Class: Nonbreeding
Subtype(s): Foraging Area, Roost Site
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Any area used traditionally in the nonbreeding season (used for populations that are not resident in a location year-round). Minimally, reliable observations of 10 or more individuals in appropriate habitat for 20 or more days at a time. For G1-G3 species, observations of fewer individuals could constitute an occurrence of conservation value. Sites used during migration should be documented under the 'migratory stopover' location use class.

Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Separation distance is necessarily arbitrary but attempts to balance the high mobility of birds with the need for occurrences of reasonable spatial scope. Note that a population's roost sites and foraging areas are parts of the same occurrence, even if they are more than 5 km apart.

For swallows and other species with similar behavioral ecology, the separation distance pertains to communal roost sites rather than to foraging areas; the former tend to be more stable and specific over time than the latter.

Date: 03Sep2004
Author: Hammerson, G.

Use Class: Nonmigratory
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Occurrences are based on evidence of historical presence, or current and likely recurring presence, at a particular location. Such evidence minimally includes collection or reliable observation and documentation of one or more individuals in or near appropriate habitat.

These occurrence specifications are used for nonmigratory populations of passerine birds.

Separation Barriers: None.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Significant dispersal and associated high potential for gene flow among populations of birds separated by tens of kilometers (e.g., Moore and Dolbeer 1989), and increasing evidence that individuals leave their usual home range to engage in extrapair copulations, as well as long foraging excursions of some species, make it difficult to circumscribe occurrences on the basis of meaningful population units without occurrences becoming too large. Hence, a moderate, standardized separation distance has been adopted for songbirds and flycatchers; it should yield occurrences that are not too spatially expansive while also accounting for the likelihood of gene flow among populations within a few kilometers of each other.

Be careful not to separate a population's nesting areas and breeding-season foraging areas as different occurrences; include them in the same occurrence even if they are more than 5 km apart. Blue jays have small summer home ranges but fly up to 4 kilometers to harvest mast (Tarvin and Woolfenden 1999). Flocks of pinyon jays range over 21-29 square kilometers (Ligon 1971, Balda and Bateman 1971); nesting and foraging areas may be widely separated. Tricolored blackbirds forage in flocks that range widely to more than 15 kilometers from the nesting colony (Beedy and Hamilton 1999).

Unsuitable habitat: Habitat not normally used for breeding/feeding by a particular species. For example, unsuitable habitat for grassland and shrubland birds includes forest/woodland, urban/suburban, and aquatic habitats. Most habitats would be suitable for birds with versatile foraging habits (e.g., most corvids).

Date: 10Sep2004
Author: Hammerson, G.
Notes: These specs pertain to nonmigratory species.
Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 30Dec1993
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
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  • Sauer, J.R., and S. Droege. 1992. Geographical patterns in population trends of Neotropical migrants in North America. Pages 26-42 in J.M. Hagan, III, and D.W. Johnston, editors. Ecology and conservation of Neotropical migrant landbirds. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC.

  • See SERO listing

  • Sibley, D. A. 2000a. The Sibley guide to birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.

  • Stiles, F. G. and A. F. Skutch. 1989. A guide to the birds of Costa Rica. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York, USA. 511 pp.

  • Stokes, D. W., and L. Q. Stokes. 1996. Stokes field guide to birds: western region. Little, Brown & Company Limited, Boston.

  • TORDOFF,H.B.1956.CHECK-LIST OF THE BIRDS OF KANSAS. UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS PUBLICATIONS,MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY.LAWRENCE.

  • Tarvin, K. A., and G. E. Woolfenden. 1999. Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata). No. 469 IN A. Poole and F. Gill, editors. The birds of North America. The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA. 32pp.

  • Terres, J. K. 1980. The Audubon Society encyclopedia of North American birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.

  • Thompson, F. R., III. 1994. Temporal and spatial patterns of breeding brown-headed cowbirds in the midwestern United States. Auk 111:979-990.

  • Westneat, D.F. 1988. The relationships among polygony, male parental care, and female breeding success in the indigo bunting. AUK 105(2):372-374.

  • Wilcove, D.S. 1988. Changes in the avifauna of the Great Smoky Mountains: 1947-1983. Wilson Bull. 100:256-271.

  • Williams, L. 1952b. Breeding behavior of the Brewer blackbird. Condor 54:3-47.

  • Willson, M. F. 1966. Breeding ecology of the Yellow-headed Blackbird. Ecological Monographs 36:51-77.

  • Wood, MERRILL. 1979. BIRDS OF PENNSYLVANIA. PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIV., UNIVERSITY PARK. 133 PP.

  • Zook, J. L. 2002. Distribution maps of the birds of Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. Unpublished.

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