Painted bunting breeding range is divided into a western and an eastern population.The western population ranges from Kansas south to Louisiana and Texas. The eastern population is limited to the coastal regions of North Carolina south to northern Florida. The western population winters primarily in Mexico and as far south as Panama. The eastern populations winter in southern Florida, including the Florida Keys, and are occasionally seen to winter in the Bahamas and Cuba (Lowther et al. 1999).
Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); neotropical (Native )
Global Range: BREEDING: southeastern New Mexico, northern Texas, central Oklahoma, west-central Kansas, southern Missouri, and southwestern Tennessee south to southern Chihuahua, northern Coahuila, southern Texas, southern Louisiana, and along Gulf Coast to southern Alabama, locally to western Florida, and, disjunctly, North Carolina to central Florida (AOU 1998, Lowther et al. 1999).
NON-BREEDING: northwestern Bahamas, Florida, southern Tamaulipas, and Sinaloa south to West Indies and Panama (AOU 1998); also locally in the U.S. along the Gulf Coast (Thompson 1991). Eastern population winters mainly in southern Florida, the Bahamas, Cuba, Jamaica, and Haiti; western population winters mainly in southern Texas, Mexico, and Central America (Thompson 1991).
occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Breeding
Painted buntings are small brightly colored birds. They are 12 to 13cm in length with an average body weight of 16 grams. Adult birds are dimorphic, the males being brightly colored. The head and nape of the males is blue, the back is bronze-green and the rump and underparts are red.The females are less brilliantly colored having dark greenish upperparts and yellow-green underparts.The wings and tail of both the male and female are dark brown or black contrasting with the rest of the body. The feet and legs, eyes and bill of both sexes are dark in color. The feet and legs are dull to dusky brown, the eyes are dark brown to hazel and the bill is dark brown to blackish in color. Plumage of juvenile birds resembles that of the adult female. The males differentiate from the females during their second year where they begin to exhibit the blue feathers on their head (Lowther et al. 1999).
Range mass: 13 to 19 g.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Length: 14 cm
Weight: 16 grams
The western population's breeding habitat consists of partially open areas scattered with brush, riparian thickets and shrubbery. The eastern population's breeding habitat consists of scrub communities and the margins of maritime hammocks.
Wintering habitat is similar for both the western and eastern populations, consisting of tropical forest margins and tropical savanna.
Foraging habitat is the same as either their breeding or wintering habitat. During migration foraging can occur in mixed flocks with indigo buntings
(Kaufmann 1996, Lowther et al. 1999).
Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; scrub forest
Habitat and Ecology
Comments: In general, few data exist on habitat requirements and they are not well quantified (Lowther et al. 1999). Partly open situations with scattered brush and trees, riparian thickets and brush, weedy and shrubby areas, woodland edges, yards and gardens in the southern U.S. Nests in bush or vine tangle, usually 1-2 meters up; sometimes in tree in thick Spanish moss at greater height (Harrison 1978). Western breeding populations use semi-open country with scattered trees and shrubs, riparian areas, abandoned farmland and other early successional stages (Parmalee 1959, AOU 1998).
In the Ouachitas of southwestern Arkansas, common in areas with a patchy mixture of open pasture and well-developed fencerows where farms are still small and family-run (J. Neal, pers. comm.). In southwest Missouri, 18 of 19 measured territories included predominantly old field vegetation (82 percent), with the remainder woodland (18 percent). Vegetative characteristics, however, varied widely between territories suggesting that a broad range of conditions are tolerated (Norris 1982, Norris and Elder 1982).
The southeastern coastal population uses a variety of habitats for breeding (Lanyon and Thompson 1986, Cox 1996, Meyers et al. 1999). While Meyers et al. (1999) found nesting success to be similar in beach shrub-scrub, managed pine-oak forest, and old growth oak forest, some forest-nesting individuals traveled up to 800 meters to feed in grassy or marshy openings, while shrub-scrub birds remained in core areas. Lanyon and Thompson (1986) determined that salt marsh/forest edge territories were preferred over interior forest, and concluded they were of higher quality.
Territory sizes measured include 1.13 hectares for one in Oklahoma (Parmalee 1959) and an average of 3.15 hectares on the edge of the range in Missouri (range 0.64-6.66 hectares, n = 19; Norris 1982, Norris and Elder 1982). Territories tend to be larger when there are no other territories adjoining (Norris 1982, Norris and Elder 1982), and smaller in high-quality habitat where territories are contiguous (Finke 1979, Lanyon and Thompson 1986). Males tend to return to nesting sites used in previous year (Lanyon and Thompson 1986).
Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.
Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).
Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.
Thompson (1991a and 1991b) notes that the western population begins fall migration two months earlier than the eastern population, and that western birds undergo a molt while stopping in desert areas of the southeastern Arizona and northwestern Mexico (rather than molting while still on the breeding grounds as eastern birds do). Loss of riparian habitat in this area may be a "bottleneck affecting population numbers" (Lowther et al. 1999). Arrives in Costa Rica in late October, departs by late March (Stiles and Skutch 1989).
Painted buntings are diurnal foragers, mainly feeding on grass seeds (Panicum spp., Amaranthus spp., Oxalis spp., Euphorbia spp. and Carex spp.) when in the wintering habitat and arthropods (grasshoppers[Orthoptera], caterpillars [Lepidoptera larvae], spiders [Arachnida] and snails [Gastropoda]) in their breeding habitat. The majority of food is foraged from the ground with some seeds being taken directly from the grass stalk. Painted buntings have also been observed stealing prey caught in spider webs (Kaufmann 1996; Lowther et al. 1999).
Comments: Eats mainly grass seeds, also insects and spiders (Terres 1980).
In winter in Mexico, occurs singly or in small groups; individuals may return to the same wintering site in successive years (Rappole and Warner 1980). Mean territory size 3.15 hectares (range 0.64-6.66, n=19) in Missouri (Norris 1982, Norris and Elder 1982).
Life History and Behavior
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Status: wild: 126 months.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
The breeding season begins in late April through to early August peaking mid-May through to mid-July. Males usually arrive at the breeding territory one week before the females. Pairs are usually monogamous with rare instances of polygyny. Nests are located in low lying vegetation. The nests are 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 until the altricial young hatch. Parental care of the young is solely the female's responsibility until fledging occurs 12-14 days later . Time between fledging in the first nest to the second nest is around 30 days (Kaufman 1996; Lowther et al. 1999).
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; oviparous
Average time to hatching: 11 days.
Average eggs per season: 4.
Eggs are laid March-July (mostly May-June). Usually produces two broods per year, sometimes up to four. Clutch size usually is three to four. Incubation, by female, lasts 11-12 days. Young are probably tended by female alone; leave nest at 8-14 days.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Passerina ciris
Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.
-- end --
Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Passerina ciris
Public Records: 3
Specimens with Barcodes: 3
Species With Barcodes: 1
Overall there has been a general decline in painted bunting numbers since the mid 1960's. Their desirability as caged birds and loss of habitat is the primary cause of their decline. Painted Buntings are still trapped and sold in Central America and transported over-seas by ship. Habitat destruction constitutes the main reason for their decline. Development of coastal swamp thickets and woodland edges has significantly reduced their eastern coastal habitats. The loss of mid-migratory staging areas (riparian habitat) in southwest USA and in northwest Mexico have contributed to the western population decline. To a lesser extent brood parasitism by cowbirds (Molothrus ) contributes to the Painted bunting's decline. The painted bunting is currently listed on Partners in Flight Watchlist as a species of special concern (Kaufmann 1996, Lowther et al. 1999).
Painted buntings are listed as near-threatened by the IUCN, and they are protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Act.
US Migratory Bird Act: protected
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
State of Michigan List: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: near threatened
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N5B - Secure
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
Comments: HABITAT: Breeding habitat loss is generally considered to be the greatest threat (Muehter 1998, Lowther et al. 1999); this is especially well documented along the Atlantic coast (Meyers, pers. comm.).
PET TRADE: Capture of individual birds for sale in the pet trade is apparently a significant concern on the wintering grounds in Central America (Muehter 1998).
PARASITISM: Brown-headed cowbird (MOLOTHRUS ATER) parasitism is known from both western and eastern populations. Thirteen 13 of 45 nests parasitized in Oklahoma (Parmalee 1959), 4 of 60 nests parasitized in Texas in an area where extensive cowbird removal had been carried out (Barber and Martin 1997), and 8 percent of an unspecified number of nests on barrier islands in Georgia (Meyers et al. 1999). Whether or not brood parasitism is a significant factor in population declines is not known.
PREDATION: Predators are likely similar to those of other small passerines and do not seem to be an unusual threat (Lowther et al. 1999).
Conservation Actions Underway
The species is monitored, but no other specific actions are known.
Tightly control any ongoing trade in the species. Develop an appropriate management strategy to reverse population declines. Develop a comprehensive conservation strategy including adaptive harvesting for populations in the Caribbean and Latin America (Iñigo-Elias 2006).
Restoration Potential: Restoration potential is probably good, with appropriate habitat management. Some apparent range expansion along the Atlantic coast and in Florida (Potter et al. 1980, Taylor et al. 1989, Stevenson and Anderson 1994) suggests the ability to recolonize suitable habitat previously inhabited in southeast Arizona and New Mexico.
Preserve Selection and Design Considerations: Preserves for both the eastern and western populations will need to maintain early to mid-successional vegetation, with an emphasis on retaining a mix of open and wooded or shrubby components. In the southeast, protecting beach shrub-scrub and coastal wetland habitats will be important (Meyers 1999). More detailed preserve design specifications must await the completion of further study, some of which is underway (Sykes and Meyers 1999).
There are no data to suggest parameters for preserves on the wintering grounds; it is possible that protection from illegal capture and sale for the pet trade may be as significant a factor as habitat protection (Muehter 1998).
Because the western populations spend significant time molting and feeding during their autumn stopover in southeastern Arizona and northwestern Mexico, consideration should be given to the protection of habitat in this region--especially riparian vegetation (Thompson 1991a, 1991b). No information which might guide the design of such preserves appears to exist, however.
Management Requirements: In areas where succession proceeds toward forested climax conditions, managers will need to interrupt this process through mowing, burning, herbicide application or other means. The most significant concern for the Atlantic coast populations is the transformation of valuable wetland and scrub-shrub habitats into intensive pine management and residential development (Meyers 1999); successful management will require the protection of existing habitat.
Management Research Needs: Population declines are well documented, but reasons for the declines need more study. A better understanding of threats within the breeding range and wintering area, and the biology of the western populations on their fall migration stopover are needed. The relationship of habitat quality to nesting success, especially across the range of the western population, needs research. Effects of brown-headed cowbird (MOLOTHRUS ATER) nest parasitism needs further study. Cowbird impact is less than among some coexisting species (Barber and Martin 1997; Meyers et al. 1999), but may become a factor among eastern populations which have only recently come into contact with cowbirds (Lowther 1993, Lowther et al. 1999).
Biological Research Needs: Genetic studies of the eastern and western populations should be undertaken to determine if they are distinct species or if the two subspecies currently described are appropriately defined (Thompson 1991b, Lowther et al. 1999).
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Painted buntings 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 where they are sold for greatly inflated prices. (Lowther et al. 1999)
Stewardship Overview: Populations across the breeding range have shown decreases of 3.0 percent per year from 1966-1998, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS). Although more study needs to be done, loss of breeding habitat appears to be a factor in this decline. Management should include protection of existing habitat and vegetative manipulation to create early and mixed-successional stages. Monitoring by the BBS should continue, along with studies to determine relationships between habitat change over time and reproductive success. Better understanding of problems in wintering areas and (for western populations) important molt-migration areas in desert habitats of southeastern Arizona and northwestern Mexico should also be sought.
- P. c. ciris – (Linnaeus, 1758): nominate, breeds in the southeastern United States
- P. c. pallidior – Mearns, 1911: breeds in south central US and northern Mexico
The male painted bunting is often described as the most beautiful bird in North America. Its colors, dark blue head, green back, red rump, and underparts, make it extremely easy to identify, but it can still be difficult to spot since it often skulks in foliage even when it is singing. The plumage of female and juvenile painted buntings is green and yellow-green, serving as camouflage. Once seen, the adult female is still distinctive, since it is a brighter, truer green than other similar songbirds. Adult painted buntings can measure 12–14 cm (4.7–5.5 in) in length, span 21–23 cm (8.3–9.1 in) across the wings and weigh 13–19 g (0.46–0.67 oz).
Distribution and habitat
The painted bunting occupies typical habitat for a member of its family. It is found in thickets, woodland edges with riparian thickets, shrubbery and brushy areas. In the east, the species breeds in maritime hammocks and scrub communities. Today, it is often found along roadsides and in suburban areas, and in gardens with dense, shrubby vegetation. The wintering habitat is typically the shrubby edges along the border of tropical forests or densely vegetated savanna. The breeding range includes southern Arizona, southern New Mexico, southern and eastern Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, northern Florida, coastal Georgia, the southern coast of South Carolina, and northern Mexico. They winter in South Florida, Cuba, the Bahamas, along both coasts of Mexico and through much of Central America. Occasionally, they may be vagrants further north, including to New York Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The bird is also found every few years as far north as New Brunswick, Canada.
Painted buntings are shy, secretive and often difficult to observe for the human eye, though can be fairly approachable where habituated to bird feeders. Males sing in spring from exposed perches to advertise their territories. They also engage in visual displays including flying bouncingly like a butterfly or in an upright display, body-fluff display, bow display and wing-quiver display. These displays are used in agonistic conflicts with other males or in breeding displays for females, with females rarely engaging in displays. Occasionally, males may physically clash with each other and may even kill each other in such conflicts. When their breeding season has concluded, buntings migrate by night over short to medium distances. Western birds (Arizona and northern Mexico) molt in mid-migration, while eastern birds tend to molt before they migrate.
Painted buntings often feed by hopping along the ground, cautiously stopping every few moments to look around. The painted bunting regularly eats a large quantity of grass seeds, including Panicum, Amaranthus, Oxalis, Euphorbia, and Carex. Seeds are eaten almost exclusively during winter. While breeding, painted bunting and nestlings mainly eat small invertebrates, including spiders, snails, grasshoppers, caterpillars, and other insects. They have been known to regularly visit spider webs to pick off small insects caught in them.
Painted buntings are mostly monogamous and are solitary or in pairs during the breeding season, but sometimes exhibit polygyny. The breeding season begins in late April and lasts through to early August, with activity peaking mid-May through to mid-July. The male arrives about a week before the female and starts to establish a small territory. The nest is typically hidden in low, dense vegetation and is built by the females and woven into the surrounding vegetation for strength. Each brood contains three or four gray-white eggs, often spotted with brown, which are incubated for around 10 days until the altricial young are hatched. The female alone cares for the young. The hatchlings are brooded for approximately 12 to 14 days and then fledge at that time. About 30 days after the first eggs hatch, the female painted bunting usually lays a second brood. Nests are often parasitized by cowbirds. Common predators at the nest of eggs, young, and brooding females are large snakes, including coachwhip snakes, eastern kingsnakes, eastern racers, and black rat snakes. Bird-hunting raptors, including short-tailed hawks, Accipiter hawks, and even the small passerine loggerhead shrike, may hunt painted buntings, including the conspicuous breeding-plumaged male. The painted bunting can live to over 10 years of age, though most wild buntings probably live barely half that long.
The male painted bunting was once a very popular caged bird, but its capture and holding is currently illegal. Trapping for overseas sale may still occur in Central America. Populations are primarily declining due to habitat being lost to development, especially in coastal swamp thickets and woodland edges in the east and riparian habitats in migration and winter in the Southeastern United States and Mexico. They are categorized as near threatened by the IUCN and are protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Act.
- BirdLife International (2012). "Passerina ciris". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- Linnaeus, Carolus (1758). Systema Naturae (in Latin). Stockholm (Holmiae): Laurentii Salvii. p. 320. OCLC 174638949. Retrieved 4 February 2008.
- "Passerina ciris". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. ITIS-North America. Retrieved 23 February 2008.
- Gill, F.; Donsker, D., eds. (2014). "IOC World Bird List (v 4.4)". doi:10.14344/IOC.ML.4.4. Retrieved 16 November 2014.
- "Painted Bunting". All About Birds. Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
- "Painted Bunting". Nebraska Bird Library.
- Stefanyk, D. (2001). "Passerina ciris (On-line)". Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved 16 November 2014.
- "Gallery of New York Rarities: Painted Bunting". New York State Avian Records Committee.
- "Pictorial Highlights, Unusual Captures: Painted Bunting". Carnegie Museum of Natural History's Powdermill Avian Research Center (PARC).
- Kashlak, Jane (10 January 2005). "Stalking Cape May's Painted Bunting". Cape May Times.
- "Rare painted bunting spotted in the Acadian Peninsula". CBC News. 15 November 2014.
- McDonald, Gavin (1999). A Field Guide to the Birds. HMCo Field Guides. p. 252. ISBN 0-395-96371-0.
- Lowther, P.E.; Lanyon, S.M.; Thompson, C.W. (1999). Poole, A.; Gill, F., eds. Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris). The Birds of North America (398) (Philadelphia, PA: The Birds of North America, Inc.).
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Passerina ciris.|
|Wikispecies has information related to: Passerina ciris|
- Painted bunting - Passerina ciris - USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter
- Painted bunting species account - Cornell Lab of Ornithology
- Painted bunting videos, photos, and sounds at the Internet Bird Collection
- Painted bunting photo gallery at VIREO (Drexel University)
- Painted bunting species account at NeotropicalBirds (Cornell University)
Names and Taxonomy
Comments: An examination of morphological variation by Thompson (1991b) indicated that recognition of the two nominal subspecies, PALLIDIOR and CIRIS, as currently defined, is not warranted. However, Thompson (1991b) suggested that the eastern population (breeds from North Carolina south to Florida) and the western population (breeds from Arizona, Kansas, and Missouri south to northern Mexico, southern Texas, southern Louisiana, southern Mississippi, southern Alabama, and extreme western Florida) may be two distinct species. A phylogenetic, mitochondrial cytochrome-b study by Klicka et al. (2001) did not examine this relationship, but placed P. CIRIS and P. VERSICOLOR as sister species. LINARIA is an invalid generic name for North America buntings (Banks and Browning 1995).
EOL content is automatically assembled from many different content providers. As a result, from time to time you may find pages on EOL that are confusing.
To request an improvement, please leave a comment on the page. Thank you!