Lazuli buntings are pretty rare in British Columbia. However if you see one it will probably be pretty easy to identify as they have a brilliant blue colouring which stands out from miles a way. The males have blue heads and backs while the females have a subtler blue on their wings. I saw a male with an expert birder but if I had seen one on my own then while I may have doubted myself, I probably would have recognized it in the books. That being said, not all the bird books will have lazuli buntings in. I know that the “Birds of Southwestern British Columbia” and “Compact Guide to British Columbia Birds” do not while the Reader’s Digest “Book of North American Birds” and “Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Western North America” do.
As I said, I saw a bunting while with a knowledgeable bird watcher. Me and my Mum had arrived about an hour late to a birding walk at Surrey Lake Park and the entire group was buzzing after having already seen the rare lazuli bunting. Luckily there were two experts leading the walk so one of them took us back to where the bunting had been sighted. We probably would not have seen one if not for the fact that our tour guide produced his phone to play the lazuli bunting call on an app. After hearing a call from its own species, the real bunting flew around us and perched nearby on an electricity pylon. I could see the lazuli colour from where I was standing and also managed to get my binoculars on the perching bird to see the sunset orange and white chest. I was amazed and to this day, the lazuli bunting remains as the most exciting bird species I have ever seen by chance in the wild.
I just want to add that I do not support playing bird recordings to attract birds towards you. I understand that it can be nice to do so every once in a while for a particularly exciting bird like the lazuli bunting which you are unlikely to see without but it can confuse and stress the bird, particularly if you are playing a territorial call.
- Lazuli buntings are often thought to mainly eat seeds because of their beak which looks similar to that of a finch. However in reality, they will often eat insects and grasshoppers are a favourite for the chicks.
- Lazuli buntings are found in southern British Columbia during summer, which is when they breed. In the winter, they migrate down to western Mexico.
- You may have noticed that this post has been put in the “Finches” category. Technically, buntings are not finches but the two are closely related and some birds have had experts arguing over which family they belong to. They also both have similar figures which I have mentioned a couple of times in this post so the category is more to help out someone who has seen but not identified a bird that looks like some sort of finch.
- As I said in the “My Experience” section, it is pretty easy to identify a male lazuli bunting as not many birds are blue. The female is trickier but as long as you get a good look, you should be able to at least narrow down the options. The only other bird I can think of that has similar markings and is found in the same place as the lazuli bunting is the western bluebird. The main difference between the lazuli bunting and the western bluebird is that bluebirds tend to live in the mountains while buntings are found on dry grasslands. Also, a bunting has a similar form to a finch with its stocky body and large beak. Bluebirds look closer to thrushes and the male western bluebird has a darker and larger “rusty” patch on its chest than the lazuli bunting.
In all of the excitement of seeing a lazuli bunting, it never even crossed my mind to snap a picture of it. The bird was probably too far away to do so anyway. Instead, I have drawn this picture of a male lazuli bunting. The drawing tutorial I used was on the Audubon website.