"Blue" Grosbeaks and Buntings

Identification Keys and Tips

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NOTE: Two species on this page are close relatives, the Indigo Bunting and the Lazuli Bunting.  The Indigo Bunting is a bird of eastern U.S. deciduous forests, while the Lazuli Bunting is a bird of brushy clearings and woodland edges of the western U.S.  South Dakota lies in a primary area of range overlap between the two species, and the two species do often hybridize in this part of the country.  Characteristics of hybrids are variable, sharing some characteristics of both parents.

The Blue Grosbeak can be confused with the Indigo Bunting, as both share overall blue bodies with darker wings and tail.  However, the Blue Grosbeak has prominent rusty wing-bars, a much larger and heavier beak, is larger in size, and is found in more open habitats than Indigo Buntings.

Note this page is devoted to males of the species.  Females and immatures can be very difficult to tell apart for Indigo Buntings and Lazuli Buntings. 
Blue Grosbeak   Indigo Bunting
Guiraca caerulea   Passerina cyanea

Blue Grosbeak - Guiraca caerulea

 

Indigo Bunting - Passerina cyanea

Height: 6.75 inches   Height: 5.5 inches
Wingspan: 11 inches Wingspan: 8 inches
Body: Dark blue body and head, blackish wings and tail Body: Bright blue body with blackish wings and tail
Wings: Blackish wings with prominent rusty wingbars Wings: Blue wing coverts, but no wingbars
Bill: Large, heavy bill Bill: Smaller than Blue Grosbeak
Habitat: Found in open areas with nearby brush and trees Habitat: Deciduous Forest
South Dakota Status: Uncommon migrant and summer resident, primarily in southern part of the state. South Dakota Status: Common migrant and summer resident in the southeastern part of the state, uncommon elsewhere.
Blue Grosbeak - Range Map Indigo Bunting Range Map
   
Lazuli Bunting Lazuli x Indigo Bunting Hybrid
Passerina amoena  

Lazuli Bunting - Passerina amoena

Lazuli x Indigo Bunting Hybrid

Height: 5.5 inches Height: 5.5 inches
Wingspan: 8 inches Wingspan: 8 inches
Body: Blue upperparts, head, and throat.  White underparts with rusty upper-chest. Body: Variable, often bluish above with mottled white in underparts
Wings: Dark with 2 white wing-bars, blue coverts. Wings: Variable
Bill: Smaller bill than Blue Grosbeak, slightly smaller than Indigo Bunting Bill: Smaller bill than Blue Grosbeak
Habitat: Found in open woodlands, brushy areas, and forest edges. Habitat: Woodland edges, forest, brushy areas
South Dakota Status:  Uncommon migrant and summer resident in the western part of the state, accidental in the east. South Dakota Status: South Dakota lies where ranges of the two species overlap, making it a prime location for potential hybridization.
Lazuli Bunting - Range Map  

 

Blue Grosbeak

 

Indigo Bunting

Additional Photos Additional Photos
Blue Grosbeak - Guiraca caerulea Blue Grosbeak - Guiraca caerulea Blue Grosbeak - Guiraca caerulea   Indigo Bunting - Passerina cyanea Indigo Bunting - Passerina cyanea Indigo Bunting - Passerina cyanea
Blue Grosbeak - Guiraca caerulea Blue Grosbeak - Passerina caerulea Blue Grosbeak - Passerina caerulea   Indigo Bunting - Passerina cyanea Indigo Bunting - Passerina cyanea Indigo Bunting - Passerina cyanea

Lazuli Bunting

 

 

Additional Photos    
Lazuli Bunting - Passerina amoena Lazuli Bunting - Passerina amoena Lazuli Bunting - Passerina amoena        

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