Species Identification - Birds

Painted Bunting - Passerina ciris

Family: Cardinalidae


We are most familiar with the coloration of the male Painted Bunting. It is one of the brightest and most flamboyant of local birds and has been called the most beautiful bird in North America. The male gains its colors after two years and can live over ten years. The females and juveniles remain a less flamboyant green or yellow-green, but it is one of the brighter greens in the forest. They are sometimes secretive and hard to observe, but in mating season the males will perform antagonistic displays to mark their territories. They are mainly monogamous and produce 3-4 white-gray eggs spotted brown. They feed on the ground eating grass seeds and sometimes small spiders, snails, grasshoppers, and caterpillars. Large snakes and hawks are their main predator. At one time Painted Buntings were used as caged birds, but that is now illegal. They are classified as “near threatened” and are protected under the U.S. Migratory Bird Act.



On Hunting Island, many Painted Buntings return in the spring to the same location year after year. One banded male has been seen at the same Nature Center feeder three years in a row. He was banded in 2011 at the Nature Center when he was three, so he will be at least eight years old if he returns in 2016.

Range: Painted Buntings breed in the dense brush and understory of the coastal Southeast and south-central U.S. Because they are caught, caged, and sold in places like Mexico, their populations are declining. They migrate to Central America in the winter. 


Photos by Carl Berube

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