Beautiful Buntings

Juvenile Indigo Painted Bunting - Bill Shreve Photographer
Juvenile Indigo Painted Bunting - Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge - Bill Shreve Photographer

Our beautiful and abundant Painted Buntings are just an amazing treat for anyone who sees one for the first time or the hundredth time! They are truly one of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge’s treasures.

Did you know that there are other Buntings present but seldom seen? There are! The rarely seen Indigo Bunting and the even scarcer Lazuli Bunting. Like Painted Buntings, we only host these beauties for several months before they start their long migration to wintering grounds in Central America. To find one you’ll have to research their habitat, learn their call and then locate a likely area in the refuge to search. The fun begins with a hike, listening, and hiking some more; don’t despair you can find them. It may take you aday, several weeks or like me sometimes a month but when you finally locate one it is very rewarding.

The male Indigo and Lazuli both share a bright blue coloration, however the Lazuli has a cinnamon colored breast and white belly like an Eastern Bluebird whereas the Indigo is completely covered in brilliant blue feathers. The picture above is of a juvenile Indigo male who is still coming into his mature coloration. I located this one south of Mount Scott in the same habitat that I had read they preferred.

I have a Facebook friend that has captured pictures of Lazuli’s (or debatably hybrids?) and Indigos very close to the Refuge’s eastern boundary indicating that both are likely present within the confines of the Refuge. Painted, Indigo and Lazuli Buntings are all highly prized as caged pets. Criminals are known to attract and capture these beauties for the illegal pet trade. Places like the WMWR are havens for these gorgeous birds and a place that allows them to nest and replenish their numbers. Habitat destruction is the greatest threat to many species making our Refuge even more important to wildlife conservation.

Article and photo by Bill Shreve