The Bird Corner

The Indigo bunting

Thu, 07/09/2020 - 5:30pm

At the Block Island School, we are following the tradition started by Elizabeth Dickens, who began the bird program at the School in the early 1900s. We are grateful to Kim Gaffett for continuing it.

Each year, Mrs. Szabo includes a bird unit in her fourth grade class, and asks her students to choose a bird they think will best make the “Block Island Bird of the Year.” Through nature walks, bird banding with Miss Gaffett, and research, each student chose a bird they believe best represents Block Island.

This is the fifth in a series.

You may think that the magnificent Indigo bunting is just a blue bird. But did you know it’s not really blue, but black? The Indigo bunting is a beautiful bird with vibrant blue feathers, which separate it from other birds. I think that the Indigo bunting would make a striking bird to represent Block Island because its color contrasts against the green vegetation of the island and this vegetation is an ideal home for the Indigo bunting.

Indigo buntings are vibrant and beautiful, but small and sparrow-like. They are about 5.5 inches tall, with a wing span of eight inches, and a weight of about 0.51 ounces. They may be small but the Indigo bunting has beautiful feathers. The females are a light brown or umber and males are about the same. Males are a bright blue or indigo, darkest on the head during breeding season. When it’s not breeding season, they look blue and brown. As I told you before, although the male Indigo bunting appears to be blue it is really black. The diffraction of light makes them look blue. They have a cone-like bill for eating seeds and berries. And who doesn’t like berries? Besides berries, the Indigo bunting eats spiders and small insects in the summer. The insects and spiders eat fruit and vegetables so the birds are helpful to farmers and fruit growers on Block Island! As you can see, the Indigo bunting is a stunning bird that is hard to miss and they are helpful to the environment of Block Island, especially its agriculture.

The Indigo bunting is a nocturnal migrant and uses stars to navigate, making Block Island an ideal place for them to live and explore. Like sailors from the past, the clear night sky helps the Indigo bunting find Block Island. Block Island is a perfect home for the Indigo bunting because they build their nests in a bush, small tree, or clump of weeds five to 15 feet above the ground. Block Island has lots of bushy pastures and woodland edges that make it ideal for the Indigo bunting. Their nests are well-made cups of grass and paper. The eggs look bluish and unmarked. There are usually three to six eggs in a brood, and incubation is about 13 days. The young leave their nest eight to 10 days after hatching. You’ll find Indigo buntings in North America, commonly found in New England in the summer and spring, and closer to the tropics and Mexico in the winter. Block Island is a great place for the Indigo bunting to live and thrive.

In conclusion, Indigo buntings are excellent birds to represent Block Island because of their beautiful colors and because they find Block Island to be a great home — just like me. So, when you look up at the magnificent night sky and see the stars twinkling above you, you’ll know that the Indigo bunting is using them to find their way home.