Lazuli Buntings

On a hike through Roxborough State Park yesterday morning, I encountered most of the birds common to the foothill shrublands of Colorado's Front Range; among these were scrub jays, canyon wrens, white-throated swifts, Say's phoebes, rufous-sided and green-tailed towhees, black-headed grosbeaks and lazuli buntings.  The latter species is a common summer resident of shrubby hillsides and wooded, riparian corridors throughout the American West.

Lazuli buntings begin to arrive in Colorado by early May, when the colorful males use their unique song (distinct for each bird) to establish their territory and lure a mate.  Cup shaped nests are placed low in the shrubbery and 3-4 eggs are generally laid.  Feeding on insects, seeds and berries, lazuli buntings may be seen gleaning their prey from vegetation, fly-catching from an exposed perch, or foraging for seeds on the ground.

Their annual molt begins in late summer, before the autumn migration begins, and is completed at a number of staging areas across the Desert Southwest before completing their journey to wintering grounds in western Mexico.  Closely related to the indigo bunting of the central and eastern U.S., lazuli buntings are known to interbreed with their cousins where their ranges overlap; as indigo buntings continue to spread westward along riparian corridors of the Great Plains, such hybridism will steadily increase.