Thursday, May 9, 2013

Painted Buntings

Painted Buntings were among the most sought after bird sightings at BirdFest Texoma.  The following information is excerpted from an article that appeared in the Featherless Flyer, in May and June  2012.  The article was an interview with Dr. Wayne Meyer, by Allen Rich, editor of the North Texas e-News.

"Painted Buntings are most common in areas that have open grassland with small honey locust, mesquite, or other trees that like to invade abandoned pastures.  The birds feed on grass seeds and insects, but build their nests in small trees about 3-5 feet off the ground.  Honey locust and mesquites have thorns to deter predators from getting at the nests.

When field seed is scarce, they may come to your backyard.   They seem to really like white millet seeds and will readily feed from hopper feeders with perches, unlike most sparrows that prefer to feed on the ground.  If water is also provided, you'll increase the chances of getting a visit or two, however, it is pretty rare that they continue to use a feeder for more than a few days.  Only a few lucky people get Painted Buntings to come all summer.

One of the more interesting things about this species is that adult males migrate three times each year.  In addition to moving south for the winter and north in the summer, buntings in western and central Texas fly to western New Mexico and Arizona in July.  Breeding usually ends about that time, so males leave the females to raise any young birds.  Late July and early August are when the monsoons arrive in Arizona and New Mexico, so the birds take advantage of the rains to molt where there is an abundant food supply.  Presumably females who haven't any young also go, but most females that are rearing young will stay here in Texoma through September. 

As they prepare to fly south in September they may come to feeders again.  Remember that young birds of both sexes retain the female-like yellow-green plumage.  Exceptionally, a few bright males will stay as well,"

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