The Painted Bunting: A Species at Risk
The Painted Bunting nicknamed "mariposa pintada" meaning painted butterfly in Spanish is one of the most brilliantly colored songbirds in North America.
They range from North Carolina south to Florida usually wintering in southern Florida and the northwest Caribbean. The males tend to have a deep blue head with a bright reddish-orange under-belly and greenish-yellow wings. While not as brightly colored as her counterpart, the female tends to have an overall greenish appearance with her coloring on the top being darker than that on her underside.
The bunting's habitat is mainly found in dense thickets of vegetation in open areas such as thick patches of brush and trees located on the edges of open fields. Painted Buntings are also known for frequenting backyard gardens in search of seeds and insects which are their main food source. Offering thistle seed at your bird feeder can help to attract them.
The Painted Bunting's nest is deep-cupped and made of grass, sticks, roots and animal hair often times constructed at the ends of branches in clumps of Spanish moss. The males are known for being very territorial and will fight even to death to protect their territory. On average the female lays about four eggs.
Due to loss of habitat, parasitism by Cowbirds, and increased capture for the international pet trade, Painted Bunting populations have been in serious decline. While the U.S. has taken domestic action to protect this species, making it illegal to capture or trade them, these beautiful birds still remain to be a profitable business in other countries.
What Can You Do To Help?
The success of Audubon's Christmas Bird Count (CBC), which monitors the long-term status of wintering bird species such as the Painted Bunting, is dependent upon citizens like you to work as volunteers. Visit http://www.audubon.org/bird/cbc to find out more about this program and how you can be a volunteer.
Audubon has also implemented an Important Bird Area program to help conserve the Painted Bunting as well as other species. For specific information about this program and how you can help visit http://www.audubon.org/bird/iba/.
Article by Toni Naylor.