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Number of species: 80

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Indigo Bunting - Passerina cyanea

The molt sequence of Indigo Bunting is unusually complex, as HY birds may undergo a presupplemental molt in summer, while the preformative and prebasic molts occur in part during migration. As a result, individuals of the same age and sex can look considerably different.  In general, molt limits on the wings provide the best clues for ageing

Quick Tips:

  • Consider the overall plumage - extensively blue birds are males, as are largely brown birds with at least some blue on the breast, while almost entirely brown birds may be females or hatch-year males (note that hatch-year birds may be identified as males if they have blue feathers on the rump or among the lesser coverts)
  • Examine the wing - HY/SY birds show a molt limit between the greater and primary coverts, as well as among the primaries and secondaries (an eccentric molt pattern, with the outermost primaries and innermost secondaries replaced and contrastingly dark and fresh)
  • Look at the primary coverts - on AHY/ASY birds they are broad and rounded with blue edging (especially on males), while on HY/SY birds they are narrow, pointed, and entirely brown

Species account prepared by McGill Bird Observatory

Click on any image below to bring up the side-by-side comparison tool.
Age / Sex  Image sets 
Juvenile / Unknown
Loose body plumage; broad gape; brown overall
Thumbnail - MG2-2351-40256-Passerina_cyanea_AOU_7_52-3314.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2351-40256-Passerina_cyanea_AOU_7_52-3312.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2351-40256-Passerina_cyanea_AOU_7_52-3313.jpg
Hatch year / Male
Mostly brown, with some blue on the tail, lesser coverts, and occasionally median and greater coverts; rectrices narrow and pointed
Thumbnail - MG2-2351-40105-Passerina_cyanea_AOU_7_52-3287.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2351-40105-Passerina_cyanea_AOU_7_52-3285.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2351-40105-Passerina_cyanea_AOU_7_52-3286.jpg
Hatch year / Unknown
Mostly to entirely brown; blue limited to pale markings on rump and/or a few lesser coverts, if present at all; rectrices narrow and pointed
Thumbnail - MG2-2000-07586-Passerina_cyanea_AOU_7_52-3296.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2000-07586-Passerina_cyanea_AOU_7_52-3294.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2000-07586-Passerina_cyanea_AOU_7_52-3295.jpg
After hatch year / Male
Mostly brown, with prominent blue on the lesser coverts and tail; primary coverts with blue edging
Thumbnail - MG2-2351-40272-Passerina_cyanea_AOU_7_52-3278.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2351-40272-Passerina_cyanea_AOU_7_52-3276.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2351-40272-Passerina_cyanea_AOU_7_52-3277.jpg
After hatch year / Female
Mostly brown, with blue usually limited to the lesser, median, and sometimes greater coverts
Thumbnail - MG2-2351-48658-Passerina_cyanea_AOU_7_52-3477.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2351-48658-Passerina_cyanea_AOU_7_52-3475.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2351-48658-Passerina_cyanea_AOU_7_52-3476.jpg
Second year / Male
Variably mixed brown and blue to almost entirely blue; primary coverts brown with no blue edging; distinct molt limits on wing
Thumbnail - MH3-2321-00319-Passerina_cyanea_AOU_7_52-390.jpg Thumbnail - MH3-2321-00319-Passerina_cyanea_AOU_7_52-391.jpg Thumbnail - MH3-2321-00319-Passerina_cyanea_AOU_7_52-392.jpg
Second year / Female
Mostly to entirely brown; primary coverts brown with no blue edging; molt limits on wing, often most visible among the primaries
Thumbnail - MG2-2401-97353-Passerina_cyanea_AOU_7_52-3308.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2401-97353-Passerina_cyanea_AOU_7_52-3306.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2401-97353-Passerina_cyanea_AOU_7_52-3307.jpg
After second year / Male
Almost entirely blue; primary coverts with broad blue edging; no molt limits
Thumbnail - MG2-2321-00322-Passerina_cyanea_AOU_7_52-3299.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2321-00322-Passerina_cyanea_AOU_7_52-3297.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2321-00322-Passerina_cyanea_AOU_7_52-3298.jpg

Additional age / sex class descriptions

The following additional age / sex class descriptions were found for this species:
Age / Sex   Age / Sex class description
After second year / Female Almost entirely brown except some bluish in the lesser coverts and edging on the primary coverts; no molt limits
Number of species: 80

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