Vivek Khanzode/Audubon Photography Awards

Painted Bunting

Passerina ciris

Conservation status Surveys show declining numbers in recent decades. Nests are frequently parasitized by cowbirds. Often captured and kept as a cagebird on wintering grounds in tropics.
Family Cardinals
Habitat Woodland edges, roadsides, brush, towns, gardens. Favors semi-open areas with dense low growth at all seasons. Breeds around thickets, hedgerows, woodland clearings and edges, and undergrowth of open woods. Winters in similar habitats in Florida, plus areas of scrub and second growth in the tropics.
Sometimes called the "Nonpareil," meaning "unrivalled," a fair way to describe the unbelievable colors of the male Painted Bunting. This species is locally common in the Southeast, around brushy areas and woodland edges. It is often secretive, staying low in dense cover. However, males sing their bright warbling songs from higher in the trees, partly hidden among foliage or sometimes out in the sun on an exposed perch. Some lucky Floridians have Painted Buntings coming to their bird feeders in winter.
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Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly on the ground. Also does some foraging up in shrubs and low trees. During migration, may forage in mixed flocks with Indigo Buntings.


Eggs

3-4, sometimes 5. Whitish to bluish white or pale gray, with reddish brown spots often concentrated at larger end. Incubation is by female only, 11-12 days. Young: Nestlings are fed by the female. Young leave the nest about 12-14 days after hatching, and male may take over feeding them if female begins second nesting attempt. 2 broods per year, sometimes 3, perhaps rarely 4.


Young

Nestlings are fed by the female. Young leave the nest about 12-14 days after hatching, and male may take over feeding them if female begins second nesting attempt. 2 broods per year, sometimes 3, perhaps rarely 4.

Diet

Mostly seeds and insects. Reported to feed mainly on seeds, primarily those of grasses and weeds; sometimes eats berries and fruits. Also eats many insects, including beetles, caterpillars, grasshoppers, flies, and others. Probably eats more insects in early summer, and feeds them to its young.


Nesting

To defend territory, male sings from a raised perch, often partly hidden among foliage near treetop. Males will also engage in serious physical fights, probably in disputes over territorial boundaries. One male may have more than one mate. Nest: Placed in dense bushes, vines, or low in trees, usually 3-9' above the ground, sometimes higher. Nest (built by female) is open cup woven of grass, weeds, leaves, lined with fine grass, rootlets, and animal hair.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Migration

Those nesting on southern Atlantic Coast probably winter in Florida and northwestern Caribbean; those nesting farther west probably winter in Mexico and Central America.

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Migration

Those nesting on southern Atlantic Coast probably winter in Florida and northwestern Caribbean; those nesting farther west probably winter in Mexico and Central America.

Songs and Calls
Loud, clear, and variable song consisting of a series of high-pitched musical notes. Call is a sharp, metallic tsick.