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The Story of Georgia's Painted Buntings
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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. Male Painted Bunting displaying to female - these birds have a fascinating courtship displayFemale Painted Bunting in the hand - yount 1-year-old males are also greenMany 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 Patches of wax myrtle used for nests of Painted BuntingPainted Bunting nest in Spanish moss under live oak treein 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 forUsed nest of Painted Bunting in wax myrtle marked with white flagPainted Bunting nest in center of clump of Spanish moss the breeding pair, which is often a grassy area with scattered shrubs. Checking Painted Bunting nest high in Spanish mossExcellent nesting habitat for Painted Bunting on Sapelo IslandThe 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. Optimum Painted Bunting nesting habitat along Sapelo Island nature walkNanny Goat Beach habitat for buntingsTerritorial 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 inPainted Bunting habitat in open pine forestOpen canopy of pine forest allows sunlight to enter and provides for growth of shrubs and grasses for buntings 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). Maritime oak forest with opening for grasses and shrub growthMaritime oak forest with Painted Bunting habitat adjacent to marshShrub-scrub nesting birds (e.g., White-eyed Vireo, Northern Cardinal, and Painted Bunting) exhibit extremely high nesting success in old growthWhite-eyed Vireo is a shrub-scrub nesting species with a stable population in southeastern U.S.Maritime oak forest at marsh edge 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 |