Monday, April 30, 2012

You just happen to be the most beautiful bird in the world


Painted Bunting at bird sanctuary south of Freeport, Tx - Quintana
Yes, I am in love with a particular bird species, Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris) that migrates through the Gulf Coast area and includes parts of Southeast Texas in its nesting range. I never see enough of these birds. To see a flock of them together is an outstanding sight for anyone. They tend to be reclusive within a natural habitat, so one may not see them even though they are within a few feet. Notice the eye, a very remarkable feature that ties its breast colors to its eye. Its markings are clear and distinct.
Male Painted Bunting about to take a bath
Not an extremely small bird, but not a large either, they are easily seen because of their vivid colors. The beauty of these birds is one reason they are on the decline. It is against the law to take them into captivity, yet people do that because it seems a cheap way to get a pet bird without having to spend the money at the pet store. Their diminishing numbers are probably due mostly to the lack of habitat rather than pet keepers, so we will focus here on what we can do to improve their numbers. Similar reason but very different approach than Bluebirds, many of us would like to improve the bird's chances of survival by providing more habitat. It's habitat has been diminishing for many reasons, mostly caused by man taking it away for farming and community development, but also the coastal prairies which provide a natural habitat are on the decline with heavy infestation by the banned-for-sale Chinese Tallow. This bird loves the prairie grasses. I watched them feed on the grasses in this sanctuary on the coast. They would disappear for an hour in the brush and come out to get a drink now and then.
On the edge of a feeding area (behind him)
A Painted Bunting would come into our yards and perhaps nest if we had brush such as this with seeded grasses and plenty riparian (term to describe insects and seed fit for many species) food. To attract a Painted bunting into your yard, you need food on the ground in brush with plenty of cover for them to hide in, preferably a distance from the house. They will come to feed out of a feeder if kept away from the house, as well. They are particularly attracted to running water, not a drip, but something stronger like a waterfall or running stream.
Water attraction - fast moving water with calm places to bathe
The Painted Bunting is a Neo-tropical bird, the generic class of bird indicating it nests in North America but migrates to the tropics for the winter. Not all individuals necessarily do that, but in general, they do.
Daddy bird was dirty, mama bird came to supervise - sound familiar?
The female is light green in color and the juvenile is grayish with a tinge of color. They stay together as a mated pair through nesting, fledgling and migration.
Drink and then bathe
Yaupon is a good native bush to have in your yard for attracting this species, but do not trim the bushes; leave the low growth, because the birds will nest low to the ground. As a result, the nest and feeding areas need plenty of protection from enemies like cats and other predators. Let wildflowers and other plants produce seed in abundance to attract them. You can ground feed by a feeder low to the ground or on the ground in a private, bushy area.
Attitude attitude!

This is a territorial bird known to even kill others of its species in its territory.  From 1966 to 2000, the population declined by an average of 2.7% each year. Since 2000, annual spotting records indicate a continued decline. Assuming the same average decline rate, that would make the Painted Bunting population reduced by about 75% since 1966. They are on the watch list and have been for some time. They need our assistance, so they don't get on the endangered list.  

References
1. About.com Painted Buntings
2. Audubon Watch List - Painted Bunting
3. Special site just for this species
4. Attracting Painted Buntings to your yard

1 comment:

Boris Chekov said...

Thanks so much for making this information so easily available. Saw one of these small birds about the porch pecking at tall grass seed here in East Texas. First spotted it in late april I believe. Quite a conspicuous species here and I had to look it up. I imagine they'd enjoy barley and wheat- just another reason to plant some soon! Take care.