New Rule To Help Protect Florida’s Songbirds

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recently issued a new rule to protect Painted Buntings and other songbirds.

Male Painted Bunting Amelia Island Florida Backyard Birds
Male Painted Bunting, Amelia Island, FL

Painted Buntings

Considered to be North America’s most colorful songbird, Painted Buntings are on many birders “life list.” The striking male buntings will surprise the novice seeing them for the first time. They are a spectacle of color — blue, red, green and yellow. The females (and immature males) are green.

The beautiful coloring of buntings and their exceptional vocals, attract some who illegally capture these songbirds, particularly in South Florida. A new rule created by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), to help protect songbirds in Florida from illegal capture, begins in fall 2019. See full FWC news release further below.

Reportedly, cultural influences in the Cuban community make them a prized possession. Cubans (both those born in Cuba, or of Cuban descent, born in the U.S.A.), covet these birds, considered status symbols. In the Miami area, for example, while some songbirds are trapped to be sold, others reportedly are a captured to be kept as pets, to trade with friends, or even for singing competitions.

Florida Illegal Trapping of Song Bird, Painted Bunting
Florida Illegal Trapping, Painted Bunting (Photo FWC)

Painted Buntings are known visitors to local back yard feeders (they prefer white millet). The best time to spot these small, colorful birds on Amelia Island island, is during migration. Their peak pass-through presence seems to typically occur April and Sept./October. However, painted buntings in limited numbers — occasional sightings — are present on Amelia Island year round. Another delight, but more rare to spot, are the vivid blue Indigo Buntings.

Great Florida Birding Trail

Amelia Island is the gateway to the Great Florida Birding Trail on the east coast. Natural areas where birders can visit for possible glimpses of Painted Buntings are Fort Clinch State Park and Fernandina Beach’s Egans Greenway.

Painted Bunting Green Amelia Island Living Magazine April Migration
Painted Bunting, Amelia Island, FL

“In recent decades, Breeding Bird Survey results have documented significant regional declines, especially for eastern populations along the Atlantic coast—a major reason why the Painted Bunting is listed as a Species of Special Concern by Partners in Flight. The eastern population faces loss and degradation of breeding habitat owing to development of swampy thickets and woodland edges, its preferred habitat. ”

Source: Cornell Lab of Ornithology

New Florida Rule Oct. 3, 2019

Taking effect Oct. 3, 2019, (Chapter 68A-16, F.A.C., “Rules Relating to Birds,” the new rule includes regulations regarding the use, placement, and possession of bird traps.

Trapping Widespread in South Florida

The illegal trapping of native birds has long been a concern in the state, particularly in south Florida where trapping is believed to be widespread. Birds are lost from the wild population and, in many cases, may be mistreated and sometimes killed or injured when illegally trapped.

The new rule will provide an additional tool for law enforcement officers to help stop the illegal capture of these birds, while still allowing for lawful uses of bird traps. The rule contains exemptions for many lawful uses and contains a permitting process for individuals that trap nonnative nuisance birds, but do not meet one of the exemptions in the rule. Under the new rule, note that all bird traps must be labeled, even if a person has a permit, other authorization or exemption.

For more information on the new rule including answers to “Frequently Asked Questions,” see  

See Something, Say Something

Please report any instances of suspected illegal trapping to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922), or by email or text to [email protected]

Source: Some info in this article pertaining to the new protection rule is from a news release issued by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission on Sept. 30, 2019.

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