Am I Blue?

That peachy-rust breast and turquoise (oops, I mean lazuli blue) head contrasts nicely with the white belly and wing coverts.

That peachy-rust breast and turquoise (oops, I mean lazuli blue) head contrasts nicely with the white belly and wing coverts.

Turquoise. Ultramarine. Indigo. Lazuli. Those are some of my favorite colors. Also names for birds- notably, two species of buntings currently here at Casa Motmot, scarfing down my birdseed and decorating the hardscape with their lovely blueness. We seem to be having a lazuli bunting irruption but why they are congregating at my house is up for speculation. I do have a theory- more on that later but it has something to do with lawn furniture.

male lazuli bunting inspects seed quality and finds it good enough.

male lazuli bunting inspects seed quality and finds it good.

Tomorrow I’m flying out to Panama for a little over two weeks, a trip with the purpose of walking into the rainforest and coming out with a quantity of biggish (18″x24″) mixed media drawings, primarily of trees, vines, foliage, leaf litter, flowers, bromelliads- the whole nine jungle yards. One suitcase is a rolling art studio: drawing board, folios, sheaves of paper, a new wooden field easel, pastels packed tight in foam-lined ziplock containers, watercolor kit and brushes, a clamp-on daylight lamp for indoor work…even a light tarp to hang overhead in case of sudden rainstorms. And LOTS of pencils.

With this bunting influx I almost hate to leave. There’s getting to be quite a flock. The males (9 of them as of yesterday) have begun singing to the females (4 at least). Is breeding possible in these parts? Lazuli buntings are very unusual around Central Oklahoma. They are more of a western bird, and a scarce spring migrant, nearly rare. They are joining the indigos and painteds, our usual bunch who breed here. The male indigos seem unnerved by the lazulis and are staying clear of them. The females seem to be more intrigued.

Even the females are lovely. Difference between lazuli and indigo females: the LB breast is unstreaked, the face is a fine gray, the wing coverts are more distinct and the upper tail and rump are blue-washed.

Even the lazuli bunting females are pretty. Difference between lazuli and indigo females: the LB breast is unstreaked and of a more suffused peach-brown color, the face is a fine gray, the wing coverts are more distinct and the upper tail and rump are blue-washed.

Here's an indigo female for comparison: lightly streaked upper breast, wingbars lighter and less distinct. Overall a browner bird. Sorry you can't see the face, though!

Here's an indigo female for comparison: lightly streaked upper breast, wingbars lighter and less distinct. The rump and tail are brown. Overall a browner bird. Sorry you can't see the face, though-my bird photography is marginal at best.

Here's a female painted bunting: greenish overall. No wingbars. Hard to mistake her.

Here's a female painted bunting: greenish overall. No wingbars. Hard to mistake her.

The painted buntings don’t seem to care one way or another and eat alongside the interlopers. The painted buntings will happily use the hanging bird feeder, whereas the lazulis prefer the ground, and seem easily spooked. The painteds seem comfortable with human activity. I’m watching from the window, and they are keeping an eye on me. If I move, the LBs fly.

Find the buntings. I counted 8 males and four females, plus one weird one: in the lower righthand corner- a possible indigo x lazuli hybrid?

Find the buntings. I count 8 lazuli males and four lazuli females, plus an indigo female and a cardinal. And then the one weird one: in the lower righthand corner- a possible indigo x lazuli hybrid?

The only indigo showing up for this bunting bonanza is an odd-looking bird, and it shows some hybrid characteristics. The flanks are washed whitish, the entire lower belly is pure white, the lesser wing coverts are tipped with white, and there’s a rusty band across the lower chest. I don’t know enough about it to call the identification, so I’ve forwarded some photos along for the experts to decide on. And I post them here, too. What do you think?

Indigo x lazuli hybrid?

Indigo x lazuli hybrid?

HybridLXIMaybe

Sorry for the horrid picture quality, but this one shows the extent of the white belly.

Sorry for the horrid picture quality, but this one shows the extent of the white belly.

Tomorrow I’ll be jetting off to the tropics, so it’s nice to have this nice little neotropic preview. Isn’t blue the coolest color of all?

Okay, here's the theory: Lazuli buntings flying overhead see my brilliant deck chairs and mistake them for giant wooden lazuli buntings. Hey, from a few thousand feet up, what's the difference? Deck chairs= lazuli bunting decoys. They are a perfect match for color.

Okay, here's the theory: Lazuli buntings flying overhead see my brilliant blue deck chairs and mistake them for giant wooden lazuli buntings. Hey, from a few thousand feet up, what's the difference? Deck chairs= lazuli bunting decoys. They are the perfect color match, aren't they?

About these ads

About zeladoniac

Debby Kaspari travels the world with sketchbook and binoculars, drawing and painting in wild and not-so-wild landscapes. Norman, Oklahoma is her home base, and she lives there with her tropical ecologist husband and a mackerel tabby named Gizmo.
This entry was posted in birding, birds, digiscoping, garden, Nature, Oklahoma, random speculation, tropics, Wildlife. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Am I Blue?

  1. Beautiful pictures…what a collections of Lazulis!
    Its been a wonderful year….
    shall we make a wager on how many of the “blue”
    lawn chairs show up?!….what color is that anyway?
    Best wishes and keep up the excellent observations!
    Namaste’
    Jim

  2. zeladoniac says:

    On blue chairs: if that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes. The color is “Cruising 6782″ from Sherwin Williams. I was trying for a Mexican courtyard garden look but the chairs were as far as I got. Thanks for the comments!

  3. Jamie says:

    Great post. I think you may be right about the hybrid theory, but it’s not like I have comparitive experience here in California! Maybe I’ll paint my patio chairs blue.

  4. Tamaki says:

    Great pictures! You have such a beautiful backyard. No wonder all the birds want to be there. One comment: The indigo female in the picture is a second year bird (based on the primary coverts), and it looks even drabber compared to painted females. Older indigo females have more distinct wing bars (though they are browner and not as bright as painted females) and usually have blue tint on upper tail and rump as well. Please keep up the great work on your website.

  5. zeladoniac says:

    Great info, Tamaki. Thanks for the added detail- sounds like you know your buntings.

  6. Sue says:

    I’m in Tuttle, OK and frustrated in not having had one sighting of the beautiful Painted or Lazuli Buntings. What are you feeding them? I use Millet and Black Oiled Sunflower seeds with thistle thrown in too. Sue

    • kathy motley says:

      Hi Sue !! Last year in May we had a small group of buntings come through. I live near McLoud ok. We though screened corn on the ground and they just loved it. The Lazuli is a lot smaller than you think. Hopefully they will be back. Also indigo buntings, cardinals, and doves feed here too. I think the bigger birds attracted the smaller ones. Try this and good luck!!!

  7. zeladoniac says:

    Believe it or not, I’m feeding the cheap supermarket bird feed with extra cracked corn mixed in. Very little sunflower seed or even millet, for that matter. There’s a thistle feeder nearby that they’re ignoring. They only eat the food scattered on the ground, there’s fresh water for them to bathe in and don’t forget the blue chairs!

  8. mark cromwell says:

    I am really really sorry you are heading to Panama as I would like to see what you get this week Debbie. Terrific birds. My wife is gonna put out some blue furniture!!!!!!!!

  9. Bradley A Harris says:

    Great post, awesome pictures. Have a great trip. Birds are are so awesome.

  10. gatoscuro says:

    Yikes! You lost a lazuli bunting last year (found it on the porch, a possible casualty of plate glass). Having only seen an indigo in person, I wrongly thought it very, very…bright. The chairs, by the way, are fabulous. The garden is excellent. I see no giant ragweed. Darn.

  11. Great blog! This is a wonderful inspiration for my own blog (which I invite you to visit, although it’s written in portuguese) and my fieldsketching trips.

  12. 100swallows says:

    I’m going to paint my porch chair red and see if I can get a bunch of Ohio cardinals to land here. I always miss those guys.

  13. Pingback: Nature Blog Network » I and the Bird #100: The NBN Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence

  14. Tabib says:

    WoW!, really blue here!.
    I love the first picture.

  15. Mary says:

    Whenever I see blue in my yard I get all shook up. I think the chairs did it.

  16. kathy motley says:

    I feed screened corn on the ground in an open spot in my yard and have seen Lazuli buntings here in central oklahoma. Indigo buntings,cadinals, and doves love this feeding method.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s