Summer blues and the indigo bunting

Karen Wils photo A male indigo bunting sits on a branch. The male has deep blue feathers.

ESCANABA — Everybody loves indigo.

How many shades of blue are there in the average August day?

Sky blue, Bay de Noc blue, denim blue and cornflower blue are just a few of the blues that greet us every summer day.

Upper Michigan is blessed with some wonderful blues.

The blue jay is the most popular of our “blue” birds. Flashy and flamboyant, the nosy call of this bird in the backyard means, “fill the bird feeder up with some corn or seeds.”

Blue jays are bigger than a robin. They have white under parts and a crest on its head that can be raised or lowered. They are year round residents.

The Eastern Blue Bird is much less common in our area. Blue birds like open fields and meadows. They are at home around the farm and love old apple orchards. This delightful bird of the thrush family is bright blue on the top side (especially the male) and has a rusty-orange patch on its underside.

Blue bird nesting boxes help this cute little cavity nester find a home and raise a family. Blue birds fly south in the fall.

The white-breasted and the red-breasted nuthatch birds are a cool shade of blue-grey. These little guys climb up and down trees in search of insects wearing their smoky grey feathers.

But the bluest “blue” bird that graces the Upper Peninsula is the indigo bunting.

Much of the time, this bird goes unnoticed high in the tree tops or in leafy thickets, with only his happy song giving away his presence.

You wouldn’t know why it’s called an indigo bunting by looking at the female. She’s a lovely brown sparrow-like bird with a few bars of cream color on her wings.

The female’s sweet voice will lead you to the male bunting hiding in the aspen trees. When you first see Mr. Indigo Bunting, you will think he is a toy or artificial bird perched in the tree. He is such a shiny blue color, he looks like a Christmas tree ornament.

“Indigo” is a classy word for blue. The indigo bunting is a classy bird welcomed around homesteads because of its appetite for bugs and because of its song. These birds visit bird feeders especially in early summer.

For many people, blue is their favorite color, and it is interesting to learn how hard mankind has worked over the years to make things or dye things blue.

Indigo dye was made from indigo plants for thousands of years. It was considered a very valuable resource and indigo dye was trade like gold. The bright blue colored fabric and wools were always worn by the wealthy or royalty back in the olden days.

Maybe our indigo bunting is a “royal blue” bird.

There is robin’s egg blue, baby blue and midnight blue, but nothing can compare to the indigo on the bunting. He is a true blue.

Let’s back our blues and go bird watching, hiking or camping before the summer flies away.


Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong north Escanaba resident. Her folksy columns appear weekly in Lifestyles.


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