The Parklands

Colorful Delight

Last week I arrived early to work at the PNC Achievement Center with the intent of seeing my favorite bird, the Indigo Bunting before it heads south to Florida for the winter. Although a small bird in size, this bird has captured a large part in my heart with it’s vibrant blue color. Every time I see it it makes me smile and look for other park visitors with which to share the experience.

On this particular day I was walking with my trusty binoculars early in the morning in the Sprayground overlooking Beckley Creek. The morning was foggy with a hint of wind in the air. I was alerted to the Indigo Bunting by its veep veep of a call as it was signaling to another bird. In a shaggy dead tree I saw the solitary bird at the top of the tree singing it’s song. Due to the Indigo Buntings bright blue color it makes a very easy target for my binoculars. As I spotted it, the bird looked back at me with a carefree “veep”— my very own “good morning” from my favorite bird.

How to Spot One

Indigo Buntings can be seen in many places in the park during the morning and cooler times throughout the day. I tend to see them by the Louisville Loop in the tall grass around the Sycamore Trail. There are some saplings that rise above the grass there that birds tend to rest and sing on.

Indigo Buntings are hard to misidentify. The tops of these sparrow-sized birds are bright blue with a darker blue bottomcreating a very striking view, one that is hard to forget. In flight they are a blue blur due to their small sparrow sized bodies and undulating flight. Not too different than bluebirds, but a much deeper blue in color, Indigo Buntings are an edge and field species that likes wide-open spaces with lots of places to rest. The small-edged fields around the Egg Lawn are a great place to spot one. 

During my Ornithology classes in college I remember reading that they are actually not blue, but black. They don’t even have any blue pigment on their bodies. The light that diffracts and passes through their black feathers makes them look blue. Sounds pretty magical doesn’t it?

While visiting The Parklands take a look out into those grassy fields and see if you can see our bluest cardinal family member visiting the park—it’s a sight you won’t soon forget!

Story by Whit Pennington,Interpretative Ranger at The Parklands.
Photo by Jesse Lyninger, photographer and park user.
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