Two Male Painted Buntings Visit Amelia Island Birdfeeder
There are four southern U.S. states on the east coast where one can potentially spot a Painted Bunting, a neotropical migratory song bird. The eastern population of Painted Buntings (Passerina ciris) have a breeding range restricted to a small portion of the Atlantic Coastal Plain in four southeastern states — North and South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.
Birdwatchers planning to head to the beach might just see this gorgeous little fellow (pictured above, also see video below), the male of the eastern population of Painted Buntings. To increase the odds of a sighting, your best bet appears to be visiting a barrier island or the nearby mainland. (The Painted Buntings in North Carolina and Florida are reportedly mainly coastal, while they go much further inland in Georgia and South Carolina.)
“The most colorful songbird in North America,” a male Painted Bunting has been a regular here at a backyard birdfeeder on Amelia Island, Florida. He’s been at the feeder so much the past few days, he’s crossing into “pet” territory. The breeding season of the eastern population is “mid-April through August.” When he disappears, as no doubt that day will come, he will be missed! Take a look at this colorful fellow in video below.
Having lived here in northeast Florida in Fernandina Beach for over 16 years, it’s only been the past month that I’ve seen a Painted Bunting. However, note that I haven’t had a birdfeeder most of this time. Plus, the feeder is now located in a direct sight line where I will notice activity whenever I’m on the computer. So maybe I’ve been missing out on a colorful show of fine feathered friends all these years.
Reportedly, “the greatest densities are on the barrier islands, the islands within the estuarine systems, and in suitable habitats on the immediate mainland adjoining the saline and brackish areas,” according to a research paper “North American Birds” by Paul Sykes, Jr. (of the University of Georgia) and Stephen Holzman (US Fish & Wildlife Service.) See below specific public lands designated birdwatching areas on Amelia Island to visit. And don’t forget to pack your binoculars! So far, I’ve only seen the brightly colored male — blue head, bright red breast, green and yellow elsewhere. The female Painted Bunting looks very different — it’s all green. The female is also different from the male in that she does not sing. I’d love to see a female, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed.
There’s an organization, the Painted Bunting Observer Team, PBOT(www.paintedbuntings.org), asking for volunteers (dubbed “citizen scientists”) to record sightings of these beautiful birds. Anyone who sees these birds can report the data to the PBOT group at the Department of Environmental Studies at University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW). Unfortunately, according to their website, Painting Buntings are a species in decline: “Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) Data collected since 1966 show a 3.2% decline per year for Painted Buntings in the southeast region.” But, note that “Florida is the only state that consistently has a breeding population in the spring and summer (North Florida) and a wintering population (South Florida),” according to PBOT website.
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TOURIST TIP: Where Visitors Can Go to Potentially Spot Painted Buntings on Amelia Island
Public lands on the barrier island for birdwatching opportunities are:
1. Fort Clinch State Park (the official “gateway” to the Great Florida Birding Trail), with over 1,300 acres (enter the state park’s main entrance from Atlantic Avenue, not far from Main Beach Park in Fernandina).
2. Amelia Island Plantation resort (located on the southend of the island, along First Coast Highway) is also on the Great Florida Birding Trail, and offers birding excursions and a Nature Center. (There’s actually a residential street within Amelia Island Plantation named after this bird, Painted Bunting Road.)
3.Egans Creek Greenway lists the Painted Bunting as summer resident with frequency of sightings ”common” — i.e. several sightings a week). The main Egans Greenway access with restrooms is behind the Fernandina Beach Rec Center on Atlantic Avenue in Fernandina Beach.
4. The other state park for birdwatching is located on the southend, the Amelia Island State Park (First Coast Highway/A1A with park entrance near the southend bridge).
BACK TO THE BACKYARD BIRDFEEDER
Research indicates that Painted Buntings like white millet seed. The seed currently in my feeder, however, is a mix (“millet” is in the mix).
I’m not 100% positive it has been the same one male Painted Bunting at the feeder. Sometimes I think the colors are a bit more brilliant than other times, and also subtle difference in size — a bit plumper (maybe from eating so much?) Perhaps it’s been more than one male visiting, but maybe not. However, only one bunting at a time has ever been at the birdfeeder for the past three days.
Initially I was taking photos with a digital still camera, but the quality was poor and grainy since I was shooting more distantly through a glass door and screen. Then it occurred to me that surveillance was the answer, so I set up a bird cam. I placed a tripod with video camera outside near the feeder and just let it roll, hoping he would show up before the 1-hour digital tape was finished recording.
It took a few recording sessions, but the effort was well worthwhile. After several attempts, I ended up with a 25-minute session of this beauty on the feeder (I’ve edited the video down to around four minutes, so bird lovers take a look.)
I confess — I’ve turned into a bird lady (and “PBOT” member). While I have no bird credentials whatsoever, I’ve become enamored with seeing who stops by the feeder. And I’ve been graced with this gorgeous little fellow. No wonder birdwatching is a favorite “hobby” of many folks. It’s interesting, and I highly recommend putting up a birdfeeder.
The public has become fans of “reality” shows, peeking into other’s lives (evidenced by their predominance in television programming these days). So for those with a yard, why not watch a bird reality show, happening right outside your door? It’s a family-oriented, educational show with the content appropriate for all ages.
For those interested in nature and wildlife, there’s an annual May festival celebrating the local bioregion, the Wild Amelia Nature Festival . Find out more about the Wild Amelia Festival.
With a background in publishing, financial services, and real estate, Wendy is Amelia Island Living & Travel's digital content editor (including photography and social media channels). A nature lover, birding and biking enthusiast, she has lived on Amelia Island 20 years (a transplant from NY). eMail: contact@AmeliaIslandLiving.com. 904-206-7280.