Female Painted Bunting Male Painted Bunting
By Jay Paredes By Robert Lin
At first sight, this unique bird species native to the southeastern United States area look as if they hopped right out of child’s painting. The red, green, and blue fusion of colors distinguishes a male Painted Bunting. Although less impressive but still equally significant, the females are colored with a duller green plumage. Being that these birds are from the finch family, their beaks are conical in shape which also accommodates their diet of seeds and small insects.
Not surprisingly, these birds migrate to warmer climates during the winter season. Therefore, one can find these colorful birds in South Florida and even as far south as the Bahamas and Cuba during the winter season. They tend to breed along the east cost of the United States from North Carolina to Florida starting in April. The masses rapidly decrease in September and by the time October rolls around most birds have already left. Painted Buntings breed in weedy, shrubby areas or near a forest’s edge. They might even be found near abandoned farmhouses or along roads and streams.
Females scavenge an area with dense foliage at a high elevation (approx. 6 feet) to find their perfect nest. She can support 3-4 eggs in her nest with an average nesting period of nine days. Once the eggs hatch, the offspring are so little they usually weigh less than one tenth of an ounce!
As you can probably conjecture due to their brightly colored plumage, males can be aggressive when it comes to courting females. These birds have been spotted pecking and grappling each other over specific mates or territory. One male Bunting can even guard up to three acres of territory! They seem to be the most territorial during the breeding season. All in all, Painted Buntings spend most of their time on the ground as a ground forager, where they find one of the major components of their diet – seeds.
Here at Green Cay Nature Center, the Painted Buntings are a welcome visitor during those winter months. Having been spotted near our two bird feeders in the front of the building, Painted Buntings tend to stop by Green Cay during their migration season. Don’t forget the next time you come experience the wetland life at Green Cay that you keep an eye out for the Painted Buntings (and don’t worry, they are not hard to miss).
By Bethany Malzman