Lazuli Bunting

Our local bird banding station, Sand Bluff Bird Observatory, perhaps the finest in the midwest, had a surprising visitor today. A Lazuli Bunting showed up; the first one banded here! Normally Lazuli Buntings are found west of northern Illinois in places like Nebraska and the Dakotas.

Lazuli Bunting
Lazuli Bunting

Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler

Swamp Sparrow (was originally called a Lincoln’s Sparrow by the bander)
Lincoln's Sparrow

Another view of the Lazuli
Lazuli Bunting

11 thoughts on “Lazuli Bunting

  1. According to the bander present it was a Lincoln’s Sparrow; we are going with that for now. Tough little sparrows even in the hand!

  2. Such wonderful photos! The Swamp Sparrow and Lincoln’s have similar head patterns.
    The streaking and buffy coloring on the Lincoln’s breast are very crisp and obvious for identification between the two species. Do you have any non cropped pictures that show its belly more?

  3. Thanks Mon@rch! The only photos I have are from the same angle; an uncropped one can be found here: – if you click the larger size you can get some pretty good detail. I didn’t notice any buffy coloring, so originally thought Swamp but it was a rather busy morning so we didn’t challenge the ID further. I’m not a bander, just a Birdfreak!

  4. The one bird pictured is for certain a Swamp Sparrow. The bander should be more careful to consult guides like Sibley’s and of course Pyle if in doubt.

    It was awesome to see the Lazuli Bunting photos.

    I think by ABA rules that bird is “not countable”? I think there may be a loophole for banders, but not other observers who are there. Do you know / did you look into the details about this? I’d be curious b/c I’ve done a lot of bird banding in the past.
    I would certainly add a bird like that to my personal life list if I saw it, but would probably have to keep it off my submitted lists, ect.

  5. Eric – Thank you for your input. We are in total agreement now that it was a Swamp Sparrow; the bander was younger than me (I’m only 25) so a mistake here and there is understandable (and this doesn’t reflect on the banding station – they are one of the best in the country, something I’ll be posting more about in the future).

    Thank you for bringing up the issue of countability. We’ve discussed this internally and will probably post about it. Obviously a captive bird like in a zoo doesn’t count but this bird was in deed wild. Personally, I counted it but haven’t officially submitted it to anything else, mainly because it will be reported by the banding station and we wouldn’t want it doubled up.

    But if ABA rules deny this as being countable it is rather silly – the bird was wild, caught, banded, photographed, and returned to the wild. If a person birding the roadside by the banding station saw the bird after release, would it count? How far away would it have to go? To me, since the bird was actually caught and positively ID’d (unlike the Swamp Sparrow) it makes the sighting that more legitimate and countable.

    I wouldn’t say I would want to just hang around banding birds and build a lifelist that way, but with cool birds like this, it is fine with me! I think bird banding is the best yet underused tool we have for monitoring birds.

  6. If you really care about what the ABA rules say in a case like this, see, Interpretation 3.C.i. But if you’re not turning in your list to the ABA, what does it matter what those rules say? It is, as so many before me have said, your list!

    I have a very different view of recreational banding (having once been an eager and licensed devotee myself), and I won’t bore you with it; but I have to say that the banding lab is unlikely to agree with you about “a mistake here and there.” If rightly I recall, unidentified birds are not to be banded and released–much less misidentified birds.


  7. Rick – thanks for the input about ABA rules. Luckily, we don’t follow the norm and tend to make our own rules, although we do follow the Code of Ethics. I wouldn’t be bored about your banding experiences. I suppose it was pretty poor to have the bird misidentified but it wasn’t our position to do anything about it. Our defense on this matter is that we were just visiting birders and less experienced than the rest of a rather large group of banders and other “expert” birders. No one questioned or disputed the decision of identification and it is unfortunate if they made a mistake. As far as I know, they are not considering it a mistake, but as younger birders, we are definitely not ones to dispute them.

    For our personal lists, we count what we are 110 percent sure of for life lists and the photo life list.

    It’s all about having fun and promoting conservation in every way we can! Bird on!

  8. Hi! I’m from central Illinois and I just wanted to say that I have seen a lazuli bunting twice! Once in May of 1990 (the year my daughter was born), it was a male at my bird feeder. I did get a photo, but not a good one. I thought it was a bluebird, but he had 2 white stripes on the wings and not a full orange breast. Then on Sat. Aug. 31, 2013 my daughter and I saw a female lazuli bunting taking a bath in our bird bath. She had her wings spread and we saw beautiful blue tail feathers like no other bird I know. Other than that she kind of looked like a sparrow only larger. She had no orange breast and was tan/brown, so I figured female. I did not have the opportunity to get a photo, but I will keep watchin!

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