A SPECIES AT RISK
It takes two years for a male Painted Bunting to become a brilliantly colored songbird without equal in North America. In contrast, the younger males and all females are difficult to see in their cryptic green plumage. Many people are unaware that this small colorful finch is a native songbird that migrates in late April from southern Florida, the Caribbean Islands, and Mexico to its nesting areas in the U.S. Painted Buntings nest along the coastal areas of Florida north to North Carolina but they also nest inland near large coastal rivers in these states. Visit the Painted Bunting Distribution Map
Female Painted Buntings build nests in low shrubby growth, hedgerows, Spanish moss, and dense herbage. The deep cup nest can be found in a bush or vine tangle 3 to 6 feet (about 1 to 2 m) high or rarely at greater heights up to 23 to 26 feet (about 7 to 8 m) in Spanish moss (scientific name: Tillandsia usneoides). Males defend nesting territories that are characterized by enough vegetation to support and conceal the nest (often a single bush); several singing perches; and a feeding area for the breeding pair, which is often a grassy area with scattered shrubs. The female alone incubates 3-4 eggs for 11-12 days. Nestlings leave the nest at 8-9 days (fledging) and may be fed by the male after fledging if the female begins building a new nest.
Painted Buntings occupy many types of habitats in coastal Georgia. Territorial males occur in highest density in open grassy areas with abundant shrubs and a few scattered trees. Nanny Goat Beach on Sapelo Island, Georgia, is ideal breeding habitat for Painted Buntings. Buntings nest in lower densities in open pine-oak forest with canopy closure of about 68%. These forests have abundant grasses and shrubs that are maintained by periodic prescribed fire at four to six year intervals. Maritime oak forests are also important habitat for nesting buntings but only in forest edges along marshes and in old growth forests with canopy openings, shrubs, and >50% grass cover (based on ongoing research currently unpublished). Shrub-scrub nesting birds (e.g., White-eyed Vireo, Northern Cardinal, and Painted Bunting) exhibit extremely high nesting success in old growth maritime oak forest of Sapelo Island, Georgia. Water, usually in the form of freshwater emergent wetland or salt marsh is always near breeding territories of Painted Buntings in the Atlantic Coastal region, especially territories in forested habitat.
The best way to learn about Painted Bunting nesting habitat is to visit Georgia's coastal wildlife management areas and national wildlife refuges. If that is not possible, you may learn more about habitat for nesting Painted Bunting by following the map of Georgia's Colonial Coast Birding Trail. Click on red dot to see Painted Bunting nesting habitat at that location. | see regional map |