Lazuli Bunting

"A Song of its Own"

Lazuli Bunting by Peter LaTourrette
Lazuli Bunting by Peter LaTourrette

At a Glance

  • Scientific Name: Passerina amoena
  • Population: 6.7 million
  • Trend:  Stable
  • Habitat: Breeds in shrubby areas, early successional forests, riparian corridors, and hedgerows; winters in similar habitats.

About the Lazuli Bunting

Named after a blue gemstone, lapis lazuli, the male Lazuli Bunting glows as brightly as its eponymous jewel. Its species name, amoena, which means “lovely” in Latin, is another nod to this bright little bird's appearance. It's a close relative to the equally eye-catching Painted Bunting, Varied Bunting, and Blue Grosbeak.

During its breeding season, a male Lazuli Bunting has bright cerulean-blue head and back (a lighter blue than that of the closely-related Indigo Bunting), white wing bars, a rusty breast, and white belly. Its color pattern may suggest an Eastern Bluebird's, but its smaller size, wing bars, and short, conical bill quickly differentiate it. The female Lazuli Bunting is brownish-gray above with a warm buff breast and wing bars, set off by touches of blue on the wings, tail, and rump.

This bright bunting is also a top singer.

Singing a New Song

A male Lazuli Bunting does not hatch knowing how to sing. Like most songbirds, a young male learns its species' song by listening to the adult males around it. But the Lazuli Bunting takes the process a step further: During its first spring, a young male “borrows” bits of song from neighboring males, then recombines the notes, order, and phrasing to create a song that's all its own. He eventually settles on one song type; this “crystallized” song is then his unique song for life.  

These complex song “sampling” skills can be observed in the Indigo Bunting and Song Sparrow as well. 

Songs and Sounds

The male Lazuli Bunting sings a highly complex and unique song. Only the males sing. Listen to a few examples of this variable song here!

Nicolas Martinez, XC741543. Accessible at
Paul Marvin, XC717622. Accessible at
Steve Hampton, XC582682. Accessible at

Breeding and Feeding

Male Lazuli Buntings arrive at the breeding grounds first each spring, then stake out and defend a territory through song and displays. The newly-arriving females then select a territory and mate. Although this species appears monogamous at first glance, both members of a pair may leave their territory for extra-pair copulations during courtship, a strategy which may increase nesting success via increased chances for reproduction (males) and greater genetic diversity in the clutch (females).

Lazuli Buntings nest in thick shrubs, vines, or low trees, usually close to the ground. The female selects a nest site, then proceeds to build. The nest is an open cup of grass, weeds, bark, and leaves, lined with softer materials and bound with spider webs and tent-caterpillar silk. The female bunting incubates her clutch of 3-4 eggs for about two weeks and broods the young when they first hatch. The male will feed the female while she is on the nest, then helps feed the young. Unfortunately, the Lazuli Bunting is heavily parasitized by the Brown-headed Cowbird, which can greatly reduce successful nesting.

Male Lazuli Bunting mid-song. Photo by Agnieszka Bacal, Shutterstock.
Male Lazuli Bunting mid-song. Photo by Agnieszka Bacal, Shutterstock.

Lazuli Bunting nestlings leave the nest after roughly 9-11 days, but remain close by, concealed in thick undergrowth, for several days. The parents continue to feed the young for several weeks after fledging, with the male often taking over their care while the female begins a second nesting attempt.


Lazuli Buntings eat seeds and invertebrates. They feed invertebrates to their young, and more than half of their spring and summer diet is insects and other invertebrates. Seeds, waste grain, and berries make up the vegetable portion of their diet.

When foraging, Lazuli Buntings glean food from the foliage, hop along the ground, or fly out to catch aerial prey. They occasionally come to bird feeders for millet and other seeds.

Region and Range

Lazuli Bunting range map by ABC
Lazuli Bunting range map by ABC

The Lazuli Bunting is a species of western North America, breeding from southwestern Canada south through the western U.S. states into northern Arizona and New Mexico and the northwestern Baja California peninsula. It winters from southern Arizona south along the coast of western Mexico.

One interesting aspect of the Lazuli Bunting's southbound migration: it makes “pit stops” to molt along the way, in one of two specific locations: the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula, or along the border between southeastern Arizona and Sonora, Mexico.

This species readily hybridizes with the closely-related Indigo Bunting where their ranges overlap. Hybrid males are eye-catching, blue with white bellies and thin white wing-bars.


Help support ABC's conservation mission!

While on its wintering grounds, this beautiful bird is commonly captured and sold as a cage bird, a fate shared by dozens of other flashy Neotropical migrants including the Painted Bunting, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and Summer Tanager.

The Lazuli Bunting also faces the same threats many other bird species do, such as predation from outdoor cats and deadly collisions with windows and buildings. Our collisions program helps to prevent collisions fatalities, and provides solutions to prevent bird collisions with glass, particularly at home windows. Our Cats Indoors program encourages pet owners to keep cats and birds safe. We are involved in a number of large-scale conservation initiatives to protect and recover habitat on breeding and wintering grounds, including BirdScapes, Joint Ventures, and Southern Wings.

Get Involved

Policies enacted by the U.S. Congress and federal agencies, such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, have a huge impact on migratory birds. You can help shape these rules for the better by telling lawmakers to prioritize birds, bird habitat, and bird-friendly measures. To get started, visit ABC's Action Center.

Living a bird-friendly life can have an immediate impact on migratory birds in the United States. Doing so can be as easy as adding native plants to your garden, avoiding pesticides, and keeping cats indoors. To learn more, visit our Bird-Friendly Life page.

American Bird Conservancy and our Migratory Bird Joint Venture partners have improved conservation management on more than 8.5 million acres of U.S. bird habitat — an area larger than the state of Maryland — over the last ten years. That's not all: With the help of international partners, we've established a network of more than 100 areas of priority bird habitat across the Americas, helping to ensure that birds' needs are met during all stages of their lifecycles. These are monumental undertakings, requiring the support of many, and you can help by making a gift today.

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