Rainbow Birds: All About Painted Buntings
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Painted buntings sport a jaw-dropping rainbow of colors. Learn what males and females look like, what they eat and see the range map to help spot them.
You probably recognize common feeder birds by color. Red? Cardinal. Blue? Blue jay. Yellow? Goldfinch. But when all of those colors and more are on one bird, you’re looking at a painted bunting. Discover 15 common backyard birds you should know.
How to Identify Male and Female Painted Buntings
Males have bright blue heads, red bodies and yellow-green backs, with darker green on the wings. They develop this bold color in the fall of their second year. Females and juveniles sport a lime green hue, an unusual color among North American feeder birds.
Painted Bunting Nest
During the breeding season, males are extremely territorial. They stake out an area of about 3 to 8 acres and defend it vigorously from other males. Vicious fights may ensue, with males wounding other males. Females may even get caught up in the fray. Together the male and female choose a nest site, generally in dense vegetation about 3 to 6 feet off the ground.
Females build the nests and lay a clutch of three or four pale eggs speckled with brown, which they incubate alone for about 11 days. Once the eggs hatch, the female stays busy feeding her young brood, again with no help from her mate. The hatchlings fledge the nest in about nine days, and females often lay a second clutch of eggs soon after.
Check out 9 proven tips to attract nesting birds.
Painted Bunting Song
Once the territory is secure, males sing and spread their feathers to attract a mate. Only male painted buntings sing songs like: graffiti graffiti spaghetti-for-two. If you think you see a plain green female bursting into song, it’s most likely an immature male in his first year.
What Do Painted Buntings Eat?
For most of the year, painted buntings are seed-eaters, favoring seed from native grasses like switchgrass. They will visit feeders for small seeds like njyer thistle and white millet seed. During the breeding season, they switch to protein-heavy insects for extra energy. Females may steal bugs caught in spiderwebs, and even pull webs down to feast on the spiders that built them. Once breeding season ends, they return to seeds, especially ones they find on or near the ground.
How to Attract Painted Buntings
To attract these stunning fliers to your yard, offer millet seed in a feeder with perches. Painted buntings are wary and easily scared off, so hang a feeder with a protective cage around the tube to discourage larger bully birds.
Ensure that your yard provides low dense vegetation by planting plenty of native shrubs and grasses. Painted buntings nest close to the ground in low-growing vegetation, so having these on your property raise your chances of bringing in a breeding pair.
These bright beauties love birdbaths, too. Like many birds, painted buntings like to have an easy source of water to visit. Consider putting in a birdbath with a fountain – moving water attracts more birds.
Patience is the key with painted buntings. They may be slow to come around, but once they find a constant food source, water and protective shelter, they’re likely to return frequently.
Painted Bunting Range and Migration
Look for painted buntings in the south central and southeastern states. They have two distinct summer breeding areas. One covers a large area from Texas to Mississippi and north to Kansas, and another is centered in the coastal Carolinas. Painted buntings undertake a short winter migration to Florida, Mexico and Central America, when they gather in small mixed flocks with other birds, such as their indigo bunting cousins.
Next, check out 20 photos of breathtaking blue colored birds.