By Bill Schiess, EastIdahoNews.com columnist
“There have been bluebirds in our backyard all day,” my wife told me as I got home from a rock hunting trip. “Sometime they seem to cover the ground under the black feeder.”
My youngest daughter, Breezy, who lives in Meridian, had given me a nice black-mesh feeder along with a large bag of feed of mixed shelled sunflower seed chips and white millet. Most of our songbirds in our area love the sunflower seeds but will kick the millet out on the ground – but Lazuli buntings love the white millet.
As I watched the pine siskins, American goldfinch, and Cassin’s finches gathered around the feeder, then I noticed a touch of blue on a tan-colored female Lazuli. The first one to show up was a female then it was joined by eight bright blue males that began gobbling down the wasted white millet. “One man’s garbage is another…..” oh, you know the old adage. The eight males were soon joined by five other females.
Fourteen Lazuli buntings in my backyard was a record as usually only a single or maybe two would show up at my feeders. Since a flock of buntings are called a “decoration,” my backyard has become most beautifully decorated. Their name comes from the name of a gorgeous blue rock, the lapis lazuli, a popular jewelry stone with my family.
Some of the buntings have disappeared, but on Thursday evening I still had six come to my feeder at the same time. It appears that I have two couples that have paired up and they also appear to like each other a whole lot by feeding each other. One couple has started disappearing in a wild rose thicket on the back of my garden while the other couple has been carrying nesting material into a large lilac bush. They are welcome to stay and raise their young; if only I can keep the Brown-headed cowbirds from raiding their weaved nests and replacing the bunting eggs with their own.
My backyard is not the only one being decorated by Lazuli’s presence. Connie Anderson who lives just north of Rexburg and Steve Butterworth from Idaho Falls have reported an abundance of them.
Last summer we saw an increase of them at Camas National Wildlife Refuge, Mud Lake and Market Lake Wildlife Management areas. At Camas during the summer of 2020, an Indigo bunting hooked up with a female Lazuli to raise a brood of mixed babies. So far there has not been any reported sightings of the Indigos in southeastern Idaho, but they may still show up, in the meantime we can still watch the beautiful lazuli buntings decorate our yards. I believe that the addition of white millet has increased the numbers in my yard, red millet will not do much to attract them. The City of Rocks near Burley has always been a popular place for them.
Speaking of food for the birds; I put my orange-halves out ten days ago and they have finally been discovered by the Bullock orioles, Western tanagers, hummingbirds and Black-headed grosbeaks. In the last three days, two oranges have been cleaned out and I have hung out a couple more. The colorful migrants and summer residents have showed up for us to enjoy.
Have a happy and safe Memorial weekend and keep an eye out for unusual and beautiful birds. I would love to hear about what you are seeing out there.