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THE BLUEBIRD THAT AIN’T A BLUEBIRD
By Charles Kennedy

When migrating birds start turning up at feeders in the spring I get a lot of phone calls and questions. There is one recurring question that I have answered many times through the years. The calls start coming about the middle of April. A very excited person will tell me that there is a "bluebird" on their birdfeeder, but it’s a "bluebird that ain’t a bluebird!" So what is it?

Experience from years past gives me a clue to the identity of this bird but for fun I consider the possibilities The caller has already said that it "ain’t a bluebird!", which eliminates the Eastern Bluebird. This species has had a lot of publicity and is well known by backyard birdwatchers.

I also rule out the Blue Jay for similar reasons. Even small children know this loud, aggressive bird which is common in woods and yards throughout our area.How about the Belted Kingfisher? Well he is mostly blue but unless there is a pond or river in your backyard, I don’t think so.

Since the spring migration is at its peak, I think of the Cerulean Warbler. This is a light blue beauty who would be headed north to raise a family. Cerulean warblers are rare in the coastal plain of Alabama however, and would have no interest in a birdfeeder unless it were stocked with worms and insects.

Cerulean Warbler
Cerulean Warbler

Blue Grosbeak
Blue Grosbeak

So I ask, "Is your bird fairly small, dark blue, and has brownish patches on his wings that look like sergeants stripes?" When they answer no, I scratch the Blue Grosbeak.The possibilities have been narrowed down to one. The final question is, "Is the bird solid blue with the head and wings a little darker than the rest of the body, and he shines when the sun hits him? "It usually takes a few seconds to calm the caller down enough to tell him that he has a male Indigo Bunting on his feeder. The female Indigo Bunting is a bluebird that ain’t blue.

Indigo Buntings
Indigo Buntings

The Indigo Bunting is one of the bird species that Ornithologists (bird scientists) refer to as Neo-tropical Migrants. This means that they are like a lot of Yankees, they fly south for the winter. In the spring the Indigos start to return as early as March and by the middle of April are fairly common at birdfeeders in Alabama. They nest throughout the state and in summer can be found in brushy areas, along roadsides, and along the edges of woods.

They build a well woven nest in a small sapling in dense cover in which the female lays two to four pale blue eggs. Their favorite foods are weed seeds, small fruits, and berries but they will also eat a few insects and caterpillars.

What a delight it is to see a "Bluebird that ain’t a Bluebird

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