Living Bird Magazine
Painted BuntingPasserina ciris
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Cardinalidae
With their vivid fusion of blue, green, yellow, and red, male Painted Buntings seem to have flown straight out of a child’s coloring book. Females and immatures are a distinctive bright green with a pale eyering. These fairly common finches breed in the coastal Southeast and in the south-central U.S., where they often come to feeders. They are often caught and sold illegally as cage birds, particularly in Mexico and the Caribbean, a practice that puts pressure on their breeding populations.More ID Info
Find This Bird
In migration and winter, search for Painted Buntings by targeting sources of seeds such as weedy fields or bird feeders. In the summer, cruise through secondary growth or edge habitats with dense understory and listen for the species’ metallic chip call or the sweet, rambling song of a male. Painted Buntings spend a lot of time hidden in dense habitat so patience might be necessary; however, the wait will be worth it when you finally spot this gem, surely one of North America’s finest songbirds.
- Azulillo Sietecolores (Spanish)
- Passerin nonpareil (French)
Painted Buntings eat seeds, particularly after the breeding season is over, starting in midsummer. They’re more likely to visit a bird feeder in a yard with low, dense vegetation.
- Cool Facts
- The western population of Painted Buntings begins its fall migration before molting, molts in staging areas in northern Mexico, then continues to migrate further south. This migration-molt pattern is common among waterfowl but very rare among songbirds. In contrast to the western population, the eastern population of Painted Buntings molts on its breeding grounds before migration.
- The French name of the Painted Bunting, nonpareil, means “without equal,” a reference to the bird’s dazzling plumage.
- In 1841 John James Audubon reported that “thousands” of the colorful birds were caught every spring and shipped from New Orleans to Europe, where they fetched more than 100 times the price when sold as cage birds. They are still illegally trapped and sold in large numbers in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and to a lesser extent in Florida, despite efforts by conservationists to curb illegal trade.
- The oldest recorded wild Painted Bunting was at least 12 years old, as reported from a Florida banding study.