A request from a reader a few weeks ago sent me off to find more information on a truly spectacular little bird – the Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris). I found that several states throughout the Southeastern range offer the possibility of sightings, but the range of the Painted Bunting is fairly limited. However, its closely related cousin, the Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea), is common throughout the entire eastern United States. With a little effort you can lure one or both of these Birds & Blooms Most Wanted Birds to your own backyard.
Painted Buntings have two breeding populations in the United States. One is focused on along the coastal regions from North Carolina to Northern Florida. The other is located in the southern and central midwest, and includes Kansas and Missouri south to Texas and Louisiana. (Click here for more detailed maps.) The eastern population migrates to South and Central Florida around mid-October and stays for the winter. If you live in any of these locations, you stand a chance of spotting this brightly colored charmer. Visit PBOT, the Painted Bunting Observer Team, to learn about others’ experiences.
Indigo Buntings spend the winter in Central America, but migrate north in the spring to spend the summer breeding throughout the Eastern U.S. Those in extreme south Florida can hope to see them during migration; everyone else can look for them from mid-April through mid-October.
Fortunately, there are a lot of similarities between these two birds, so by taking action to bring Indigo Buntings to the yard, those in the Painted Bunting range stand a chance of seeing those in their yards as well. Here’s what you need to know:
- Offer millet and thistle (Nyjer) seed. Although both of these birds eat mainly small insects, especially spiders, they will visit feeders for small seeds like thistle and white millet seed. Try a thistle-feeder with a cage to keep out larger birds, as buntings can sometimes be feeder-shy.
- Add a birdbath. Like many birds, buntings like to have an easy source of water to visit. Consider putting in a birdbath with a fountain – moving water attracts more birds.
- Plant shrubs and bushes. Both types of bunting nest close to the ground in low-growing vegetation, so having these on your property raise your chances of bringing in a breeding pair. Seek out natives for your area when possible.
There are no promises when it comes to birds, of course, but knowing what they look for in the wild can help. Do you see Indigo or Painted Buntings in your yard? Please drop by the comments section below and tell us your tricks and tips!