These are some of the most fascinating and beautiful birds in North America.
In this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of facts about painted buntings!
1. Do you know why they are called painted buntings?
If you could take one guess, what would it be?
Yes, that’s right, it’s because these cute little birds are extremely colorful!
These birds are easy to recognize as their head is completely blue, their underside completely red, and their back an extremely bright shade of green.
2. Only the males have brightly colored plumage
One of the most fascinating facts about painted buntings is that only the males are blessed with amazingly colorful plumage. Females are light green and have some shade of yellow-green as well.
This is fairly common with birds as the males have to be attractive to find a partner, not the other way around!
3. You can only distinguish males and females in the second year
Equally remarkable is that males don’t get their colorful plumage from birth. It takes at least one year before they start developing their distinctive colorful coat.
The main reason females and young male painted buntings have a rather dull green coat is because it serves as camouflage when they sit in trees.
4. They are part of the cardinal family
Painted buntings are Cardinals in the family “Cardinalidae.” They are also passerine birds in the order “Passeriformes,” which include about half of all bird species on the planet.
There are also 7 types of birds in the genus “Passerina,” which is sometimes referred to as “North American Buntings.”
Some of the more famous bird species in this family are Northern Cardinals and Blue grosbeaks.
5. There are 2 subspecies of the painted bunting
There are 2 subspecies of the painting bunting or “Passerina ciris.”
- Passerina ciris ciris
- Passerina ciris Pallidor
This distinction was only made in the year 1911 as both subspecies breed in different places.
6. How big are painted buntings?
It’s fair to conclude that these songbirds are pretty small. Adult males and females grow anywhere between 12 and 14 centimeters (4.7 and 5.5 inches) and have a wingspan of anywhere between 21 and 23 centimeters (8.3 and 9.1 inches).
This also means these are extremely light birds and only weigh anywhere between 13 and 19 grams (0.46–0.67 oz)!
7. Painted buntings breed in 2 different areas
The distinction between the subspecies was made because the breeding range is divided into two distinctly different regions. You will find these birds breeding in:
- Southern Arizona
- Southern New Mexico
- Southern and eastern Texas
- Northern Florida
- Coastal Georgia
The other regions they breed in are the states of:
- New York
- New Jersey
One study even divides painted buntings into 3 separate categories based on their breeding range. This includes a western, central, and eastern group.
8. They can travel as far north as New Brunswick in Canada
The birds breeding in the eastern part of the United States can travel much further north.
Some birds have been spotted as far north as the Acadian Peninsula in New Brunswick, Canada. That’s just north of the U.S. state of Vermont, as well!
9. You have to be lucky to actually spot one
One of the most intriguing facts about painted buntings is that these are actually very shy birds. This means it’s pretty hard to actually spot one as they usually tend to hide in the bushes.
Yes, you can hear them singing beautiful songs without actually seeing them!
One trick that usually works is to place birdfeeders, something that attracts hungry individuals easily and which makes them lose their shyness.
10. What do painted buntings eat?
So what do painted buntings eat?
The answer is, it depends on what time of the year it is!
During the winter months, you might see them hopping on the ground as they look for their main source of food in this period, grass seeds.
During the breeding period, they change their menu and start consuming small invertebrates. These include spiders, snails, grasshoppers, caterpillars, and many other types of insects.
One of the most remarkable facts about painted buntings is that they are sometimes found stealing food from spiders as they pick up the small insects that are caught in them!
11. They are for the most part monogamous
When painted buntings start mating, they usually stick to their partner until death does them part.
That’s sweet, but isn’t always the case though as some of the alpha males might exhibit polygynous behavior and mate with multiple females at the same time!
The breeding season lasts from late April until early August. The female prepares the nest in low and dense vegetation and the male starts defending the territory instantly.
The female lays 3 to 4 eggs and the incubation period only lasts about 10 days. The hatchlings are brooded for 12 to 14 days by the female only after which she will prepare to lay a second brood a couple of weeks later.
The main problem for painted buntings is predators that steal the eggs, mostly various types of snakes.
12. Are painted buntings endangered?
These birds can easily live up to 10 years but birds in the wild most probably only live about half that long as they face a lot of dangers.
These beautiful birds used to be very popular as cage birds but keeping painted buntings in cages is illegal now. This also means that they aren’t being hunted anymore so their population is relatively stable, even though habitat loss in some areas does occur.
With a current population of an estimated 14,000,000 individuals, painted buntings are far from endangered. This means that they are listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List!