From coast to coast across the United States, Blue Grosbeaks are regular summer residents in dense streamside thickets. Most common in the south, they have spread northward in recent decades. They now breed regularly north to New Jersey, Ohio, and North Dakota, and migrants stray as far north as Canada in both spring and fall, so birders everywhere have reason to think about identifying them.
For many years, this grosbeak was classified in a genus by itself. It’s now placed among the Passerina buntings, along with Indigo, Lazuli, Painted, and Varied Buntings. Although the Blue Grosbeak is distinctive after enough practice, it’s easy to confuse this species with Indigo Bunting, so this column will focus on comparing those two species.