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December 2, 2021

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Friday, November 5, 2021

Return of Bird of the Week: Lazuli Bunting

We’ll take a break from hummingbirds for a bit. WC is being forced to change his digital asset management software – the software that stores and organizes his 180,000 plus photos – and the change process makes all those photos unavailable for the duration. Which is probably measured in days.

Happily, WC has been testing other digital asset management software, and has bird photos cached there. Including some shots of Lazuli Buntings, photographed last month in the Boise foothills.

Lazuli Bunting Male, Cottonwood Creek, Idaho

Lazuli Bunting Male, Cottonwood Creek, Idaho

There are a handful of North American bird species that WC thinks are a terrific introduction to the pleasures of birding. The Lazuli Bunting is one of them. Named after the gem stone lapis lazuli, it is beautiful, has a wonderful song and sings out in the open for all to see.

The taxonomy of the species is . . . difficult. Presently, it is treated as a finch. This species and its cousin, the Indigo Bunting, have their own genus. Beyond that, it seems to be a work in progress. And even that classification may be dubious; genetic studies put it closer to the Blue Grosbeak. But you don’t have to understand its taxonomy to appreciate its beauty


Its song was rhapsodized by I. G. Wheelock in 1912: “Long after the other birds, worn out by family cares, have ceased their music, this blythe little ‘blue boy’ carols his jolly roundelay from the top of a tall tree.” And that was before it was understood that each and every male Lazuli Bunting has its own, unique song, a musical bar code, as it were. First year males learn individual notes and phrases from other, older males around it, and uses those notes and phrases to compose its own song. Each male Lazuli Bunting that greater than 2 years old has just one song type, called its crystallized song. What all of those crystallized song have in common is that they are lovely to hear.

Lazuli Bunting Male, Sugarloaf Unit, Cascade Lake State Park, Idaho

Lazuli Bunting Male, Sugarloaf Unit, Cascade Lake State Park, Idaho

This species’ nests are heavily parasitized by Brown-headed Cowbirds. Human alterations of the landscape that favor the cowbirds can extirpate local populations of Lazuli Buntings; a cowbird chick in the nest is the death of bunting hatchlings.

For more bird photographs, please visit Frozen Feather Images.

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