Painted Bunting

Passerina ciris
Range Map

Perhaps no other North American songbird rivals the beauty of the male Painted Bunting. Their coloring seems as if only the brightest colors in the crayon box were used to represent this ornate gem. First year males and females, though not as flashy, are shaded in hues of lime-green.

Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma and northeastern Mexico are the primary locations these birds migrate in spring to breed, but the coastal slopes of South Carolina, Georgia and northern Florida also host a breeding summer population. When summer passes and it’s time to move to warmer climates, they head south into places like southern Mexico and Central America, or south Florida and Cuba.

Today’s science classifies two subspecies:

  • P. c. pallidior breeds in the interior USA in places like southeastern Kansas, and east to Tennessee and Mississippi, south to New Mexico and Texas, and adjacent Mexico in Chihuahua and Tamaulipas. In winter they migrate to Mexico from Sinaloa, San Luis Potosí and Tamaulipas, and south to Panama.
  • P. c. ciris breeds in the east along the US Atlantic seaboard from North Carolina south to Florida. In winter, they migrate to southern Florida, the Bahamas, and Cuba.

Recent genetic research cast doubt on the validity of this subspecific distinction, yet seems to agree there are differences in the eastern and western populations. The jury is still out. Until my 2020 visit to south Texas, I’d not had the thrill that comes with meeting these brilliant birds.

41 Photos

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