Bird of the Month

By Lynne Arrowsmith

Douglas “Birdman” Gray is one of my favorite birders, and he has agreed to share his “Bird of the Month” each month with the Outdoor Afro community. Birding is a hobby almost anyone can do no matter the age, and it can open up a whole new world of recreation and environmental stewardship. Birds are everywhere — from the tallest city skyscrapers to the remote backwoods! With Doug’s help, you can perhaps come to recognize birds found right where you live!
Bird of the Month
Douglas Gray, Outdoor Afro Contributor
Seen from a distance or in poor light, this month’s Bird of the Month just seems like a small, dark bird. But seen at close range and in good light, this bird’s appearance can be almost breathtaking. This month’s featured bird is the Indigo Bunting.
With such a pretty name, you’d expect a pretty bird…and you’d not be disappointed. The deep velvet blue feathers of the Indigo Bunting sets this bird apart indeed. (The deep velvet blue of the male…that is! So void of distinguishing field marks, the female Indigo Bunting hardly seems to even be a member of the same species of bird. Which is actually a very good thing, as the female spends her time trying to stay concealed as she incubates eggs and cares for the young. And indeed, she is not often seen, but even when seen, she is easily overlooked. I’ve added a second picture to this BOTM so you can see the contrast between the male and female.)
With his astonishing beauty, the male Indigo Bunting seems to know his beauty, and glorify in it, by singing persistently. At a recent picnic at Fort Harrison State Park, I could hear an Indigo Bunting singing nearby as soon as I walked up. (The mnemonic often used for identifying their paired call is, “fire; fire; where? where? here; here; see it? see it?”) I arrived at the picnic at about 11:30AM and that bird sang almost without ceasing until I left at 3:00PM.
An interesting piece of information about the Indigo Bunting is the fact that its color is actually not blue at all, but black…(believe it or not). The blue color is generated by the diffraction of light through their feathers which makes them appear blue. Because of this, they can appear as shades from turquoise to shades of black, depending on how the light hits them. So this beautiful blue-feathered display can actually be seen as a trick of nature.
Douglas “Birdman” Gray has been birding almost all of his life. He grew up on a family farm near Clarksville, Tennessee, where they grew crops ranging from apricots to wheat, and most things in between. They also raised chickens, guineas, pigs, horses, and a cow named…….Apples. Doug’s grandfather identified the birds they would see daily on the farm.
Doug now resides in Indianapolis and works in Parenteral Engineering with Eli Lilly and Company. Most of his current birding takes place in Indiana, with a concentration on Central Indiana, where he leads bird walks for “Backyard Birds“. Doug can be reached at 317-255-7333.