5-5 1/2" (13-14 cm). Male has bright turquoise head and back; tail blackish; wings blackish with two white bars; breast rusty; belly white. Female is brown, paler below, dark tail, dark wings with buff bars; tinged blue on primaries, rump, and tail.
Similar Species- Male Western Bluebird, Indigo, Varied, and Painted buntings, female Blue Grosbeak.
Song consists of a number of short whistled notes followed by longer whistles: sweet-sweet chew-chew seet chew.
Breeds from southern British Columbia, east to southern Saskatchewan and sections of midwestern U.S., and south to southeastern California, northwestern Baja California, southern Nevada, southwestern Utah, central Arizona, northern New Mexico, and western Oklahoma. Winters from southern Arizona (scarce), south to portions of Mexico.
Found in arid, brushy areas in canyons, riparian thickets, chaparral and open woodlands. During migration and in winter, found in open, grassy and weedy areas. Results of Idaho study conducted in cottonwood forest found bunting most strongly associated with dense shrub layers, a willow subcanopy, and herbaceous ground cover; species also avoided grazed areas.
Species feeds on insects (grasshoppers, caterpillars, beetles, ants, etc.), and seeds (wild oats, canary grass, needlegrass, etc.).
Nests in shrub. After breeding, may form flocks and move to higher elevations.
Breeding begins late March in southern range, early June in north. Female incubates 3-5 eggs for 12 days. Nestlings are altricial and downy, are either tended by both parents or by female, and leave nest in 10-15 days.
|Status:||Protected nongame species|
Saab, V.A. 1996. Influence of spatial scale and land management on habitat use by breeding birds in cottonwood forests of southeastern Idaho. Ph.D. Dissertation, Univ. Colorado, Boulder. 140pp.