Thursday, November 7, 2013

This Week's Crops & Clips: Indigo Bunting

How many shades of blue can there be? What color is indigo? We learned the spectral colors as ROY G BIV, and there was Indigo, nestled between Blue and Violet, two-thirds blue and one-third red. It is said to be the color of the deep midnight sky (which looks black to me).

According to Wikipedia, there is no uniform agreement on this color's place in the visible or electromagnetic spectrum. More than a dozen combinations of primary blue and purple are named "indigo." The color standard might be the dye derived from the plant Indigofera tinctoria from India, and also from the woad plant, Isatis tinctoria, but the pigment is now mostly produced chemically or displayed on computer screens.

What color is an Indigo Bunting? Actually it is black, and the blue color is not due to pigment but rather the reflection and diffraction of light from its feathers. Given the vagaries of light, shadow, reflection, background, camera ISO and shutter speed, and the effects of post-processing and the computer screen settings of the photographer as well as that of the viewer (or the ink used in printing), photographic images provide a whole range of answers. Following are some of the variations on the indigo theme.

The head of the adult male Indigo Bunting in breeding plumage appears deepest in color, approaching true indigo:

Indigo Bunting 2008_06_10

Bright Metallic Indigo on blue:

Indigo Bunting 20110704

Imperial blue:

Indigo Bunting 4-20090702

Violet Blue

Indigo Bunting 2-20090702

Denim Blue

Indigo Bunting 2-20120817

Cerulean blue, the color of the sky on a clear day:

Indigo Bunting 20120629

Navy Blue (low light and distance contribute to this effect):

Indigo Bunting 20090702

Dull Blue, also the effect of low light or backlighting:

Indigo Bunting 20120717

Greenish Blue (I'm not sure whether the tint is real or an artifact of post-processing):

Indigo Bunting 20090813

Slightly blue (Adult male, molting or non-breeding):

Indigo Bunting 20130104

Not blue (probably an immature female):

Indigo Bunting 4-20100826

Not blue (I believe this is an adult female because of the richness of its brown back; older females usually show some blue on their wings and/or tail):

Indigo Bunting female 20121021

Partly Blue (an adult male in winter):

Indigo Bunting 20110104

Blue with green companion (winter adult male Indigo Bunting with female Painted Bunting):

Painted and Indigo Buntings 20110104

Belligerent Blue (standing up to an Eastern Kingbird that tried to interrupt his singing):

 Eastern Kingbird and Indigo Bunting interacting 20100805


  1. I love these birds. I waited all summer to see one, no such luck. Your shots are great! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Hi Ken. What a wonderful variety of blue in hates birds apart from the brown ones. great post

  3. Just amazing; this just made me smile so much. The first time I ever saw indigo buntings we were wintering in Texas and I thought I'd discovered some amazing exotic species. All the other birds were kind of 'ho hum', this happens every year!!! I still think they are wonderful and I'll never forget that first sighting.

    I learned that thing about bluejays, not being really blue at all, but black, a long time ago, but I'd forgotten.....This whole post was so much fun, thanks for sharing!

  4. So many great shots of the blues! They are fairly rare around here except during spring migration.

  5. What a nice essay on blue, Ken! But you forgot my particular favorite: "invisible blue", which seems to happen every time I go looking for these beauties! :)

  6. Beautiful collection of images. The Indigo Bunting is a gorgeous bird.

  7. If course, me being a wife of a Navy guy, I have to admit I liked the one taken from a distance...'the navy blue'. :o)

  8. Awesome photos of this gorgeous bird. I like all the different blues.

  9. The nlue ones are my favorites too!

  10. A brilliant exposition with great pictures Ken. I'd settle for any one of those slightly blue or extraordinary blue birds right now.


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