photo sharing and upload picture albums photo forums search pictures popular photos photography help login
Greg Lavaty | profile | all galleries >> My Blog >> The Rainbow Bird, Who Doesnít Love a Painted Bunting? 08-14-2012 tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

The Colorful Visitors of Spring Migration on the Upper Texas Coast Part 1 03-12-2013 | Starting the Year in the Texas Tropics 01-16-2013 | So you want to become a birder? 01-08-2013 | What camera is for the birds? 12-26-2012 | Winter Birding in California 12-17-2012 | Fall Colors in Texas? Lost Maples State Natural Area 11-15-2012 | Machu Picchu Birding 11-01-2012 | Prehistoric Visitor? No, itís the Magnificent Frigatebird 09-25-2012 | Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Migrating Marvel 09-15-2012 | Birding Utah and Arizona, Eared Grebes and Red-faced Warblers 09-08-2012 | Fall Migration, Like Spring but in the Opposite DirectionÖ Sort ofÖ 09-05-2012 | A Landscape Photography Adventure out West 08-30-2012 | The Rainbow Bird, Who Doesnít Love a Painted Bunting? 08-14-2012 | Our Summer Wanderer the Wood Stork 08-11-2012 | Are These Guys Bathing? A Quick Peek into the Life of the Black Skimmer 08-07-2012 | Upper Texas Coast Birding Locations

The Rainbow Bird, Who Doesnít Love a Painted Bunting? 08-14-2012

In my time spent working as a birding guide, one of the most frequently requested birds I get is the Painted Bunting. Fortunately for me, the upper Texas coast is a hotspot for this species in the spring and summer with breeding birds all over the Houston area.

Painted Bunting



Our buntings (Painted, Indigo, Lazuli, Blue and Varied) are closely related to cardinals and grosbeaks. All of which are sexually dimorphic; the male looks different from the female. The male has a blue head with red eye-rings, a yellow-green back and a bright red underside and rump. If you happen upon a Painted Bunting in the field, identification of an adult male is a piece of cake, nothing else looks like it. As its name suggests, it really does look like someone painted the colors on. The female and immature male birds are a little tougher to identify though they look significantly different from other species on the UTC. Both the females and young males are green to greenish-yellow over their whole body and the two are very difficult to tell apart in the field. Male birds donít achieve their definitive plumage until after their first breeding season.

Painted Bunting



Painted Bunting




Buntings have relatively stout beaks that are good for eating seeds so it makes sense that they are often feeding on the seeds of various grasses and weeds. Their diet, however, is not limited to seeds; Painted Buntings are often observed eating grasshoppers, caterpillars, spiders and other small organisms.

Painted Bunting




You might think that a bird as brightly colored as this would be difficult to miss when out birding, sadly this isnít the case. Painted Buntings are relatively small birds and spend a lot of their time in brush and weeds or up in trees where they are concealed by vegetation. One of the features of the Painted Bunting that does aid in its detection is its distinct song. During breeding season, male birds sing in the treetops almost all day long, even during the heat of the afternoon.

Painted Bunting



On one occasion I was visiting a friend, whose wife had seen some of my bird photos. She told me that she had always wanted to see a Painted Bunting. To that I answered that she was in luck because I had heard one singing in the pecan tree in her front yard. We quickly went out on the driveway and I pointed out the song and after a few minutes we all got nice views of the bird.

Painted Bunting




Painted Buntings start arriving on the upper Texas coast in April and are present as late as mid-October. However, they can be difficult to find until the middle of April and adult males seem to start getting scarce at end of July. The Painted Buntings that breed on the UTC molt on their breeding grounds just before fall migration making them somewhat less photogenic in the late summer as can be seen in this photo that I took recently near Brazoria NWR.

Painted Bunting




Breeding populations of Painted Buntings have been declining over the past few decades. Heavy human development of lands along the coast is believed to be part of the reason for this decline along with parasitism from Brown-headed Cowbirds. Since the Cowbirds are relatively new arrivals to the scrub habitat that the Painted Buntings on the UTC prefer, the buntings have not developed defenses against this parasitism.

To see more photos of Painted Buntings look here:
http://www.pbase.com/dadas115/painted_bunting


www.texastargetbirds.com

Painted Bunting
Painted Bunting