Painted Buntings Are The Most Beautiful Bird In North America For Good Reason

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Painted Buntings Are The Most Beautiful Bird In North America For Good Reason

Male painted buntings have been nicknamed 'nonpareil', which is french for without equal.

The painted bunting is a beautiful bird belonging to the cardinal family.

Native to North America, the beautiful plummage can only be found on male birds, and it only appears in their second year of life. If you happen to see a one-year-old male, it will look exactly like a female unless you are able to inspect him closely.

Often described as the most beautiful bird in North America male painted buntings have been nicknamed 'nonpareil', which is french for without equal. With a dark blue head, green back, red rump, and underparts painted buntings are extremely easy to identify. Unfortunately they are hard to spot since they like to hide in the foliage even when they are singing.

Dan Pacamo / CC BY-SA
Dan Pacamo / CC BY-SA

This species is locally common in the Southeast and their habitat is described as woodland edges, roadsides, brush, towns and gardens. Painted buntings tend to favor semi-open areas with dense low growth at all seasons. They breed around thickets, hedgerows, woodland clearings and edges, and undergrowth of open woods. Like many, painted buntings tend to winter in Florida or places with a similar climate.

Public Domain
Public Domain

Adult painted buntings can measure 12 to 13cm in length with an average body weight of 16 grams. Though mainly monogamous, painted buntings sometimes take more than one partner. They begin to breed in late April and continue on to early August. The nest is typically hidden in low, dense vegetation and is built by the females and woven into the surrounding vegetation for strength. The females raise two broods per season laying between 3 and 4 eggs per brood. The eggs are incubated for a period of 11 days. Raising the young is the sole responsibility of the female and fledglings usually leave the nest after 12-14 days.

Doug Janson / CC BY-SA
Doug Janson / CC BY-SA

These beautiful creatures are highly social and the males are often in vocal exchanges that last 30 seconds or more. Their song serves as a means for self advertisement and/or territory defense during the mating season when the males become highly territorial. Young male buntings tend to wander until their own breeding territory can be established.

Don Faulkner / Flickr
Don Faulkner / Flickr

Painted buntings feed mainly on grass seeds in the winter and grasshoppers, caterpillars, spiders and snails. They have even been known to steal prey that has been caught in spider webs.

Andrew Cannizzaro CC BY 2.0
Andrew Cannizzaro CC BY 2.0

Sadly, the number of painted buntings found in the wild has been on the decline. They are highly desired as caged birds due to their brightly colored plumage. Painted buntings are trapped and sold in large numbers in Central America and exported from New Orleans , by ship, to Europe. Painted buntings are protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Act .

Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren CC BY 2.0
Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren CC BY 2.0

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