Thursday, April 27, 2017

Painted Buntings Arrive

This week’s blog is inspired by two Facebook Posts, the first,  the photo below, of a Painted Bunting at the Visitor Center feeders, taken by Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge volunteer Jean Flick, on April 21, 2017; this is the first time we have known of a Painted Bunting at the feeders,

and the second, posted by Texas Master Naturalist, Jack Chiles, on April 23, 2017:
“Today I was greeted by an annual ritual that I am treated to each year at this time. That is the arrival of my first mature male Painted Bunting of the season to my millet supply on my back patio. I will probably be visited multiple times daily by this bird until about August 20th when he leaves to go most likely to New Mexico where he will forage there during the monsoon season before venturing on to Mexico, where he will spend the winter. I am simply amazed at how dependable these birds can be. if you live in North Central Texas, have a brushy area or field nearby and want to watch this specie buy some white Millet and put it in a tray or on the ground and your chances are good of getting one of these beauties.”

The French name of the Painted Bunting, nonpareil, means “without equal,” a reference to the bird’s dazzling plumage.  On first spotting a male Painted Bunting, many folks think they are seeing an escaped pet bird, and in a way, they might be right.  According to All About Birds (Cornell), the conservation status of this bird is Near Threatened; and one reason for this is that 
Unfortunately, it’s easy to trap colorful male Painted Buntings by tricking them into attacking decoys. In 1841 John James Audubon reported that “thousands” of the colorful birds were caught every spring and shipped from New Orleans to Europe, where they fetched more than 100 times the price when sold as cage birds. They are still trapped and sold in large numbers in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and to a lesser extent in Florida, despite efforts by conservationists to curb illegal trade.
Dr. Wayne Meyer says, “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. 

Meyer continues, "To see Painted Buntings, the best thing is to get outdoors in grassy fields with small trees and look for singing males in May, June, and early July.  The pretty males all leave North Texas by the 20th of August (of course there's always one bird that can't read the notice).  The plain-Jane females and young will stay around through September.  Since they prefer weeds and knee-high grass, they aren't very likely to spend any time in suburban yards, but ranches can be very attractive.

For folks who want to invite Painted Buntings to their feeders, like Chiles, Meyer advises, “Put white millet seed in your ground bird feeders or hopper type feeder with perches, in April, May or September, and, as they prepare to fly south then they may come to feeders again.  Remember that young birds of both sexes retain the female-like yellow-green plumage.  Make water available, and you may attract them.” 

The next guided birding walk at the Refuge will be led by Jack Chiles, 8 am on May 13; maybe you will see a Painted Bunting! 

PS!  We had a male Painted Bunting and an Indigo Bunting at our feeder, south of Sherman, Texas, on April 26.

1 comment:

  1. I'm also blessed each year to have 2-3 pairs of painteds. So far, this year, I've got 1 male indigo who showed up about a week ago and yesterday, a male painted turned up. Haven't seen any females yet, darn it!