||[Apr. 29th, 2010|11:42 am]
Painted Buntings are a species of concern, as the population and range has dwindled over the past fifty years. Habitat loss and nest predation by brown-headed cowbirds are both implicated.
When we bought the 80 acres, we had one nesting pair on the place (the male's territorial calls make it easy to determine how many pairs you've got and roughly where they are....just listen at the start of nesting season, and you can hear this one here, that one there, etc.) We began cowbird trapping, to reduce nest predation, and before the second year of the recent drought, we had three nesting pairs producing 3-4 offspring a year (I would photograph them at water with their fledged offspring--families stay together until they migrate.) Last year, I couldn't confirm reproduction for all three, and the family I did photograph had only two fledglings...not an uncommon result in severe drought when food supplies dry up. We provided supplemental water, and some food, but Painted Buntings have definite seed preferences...and are vulnerable to predation when feeding on the ground (as they usually do.)
However, one family showed up in the back yard late last summer (I guessed that it wasn't a local nester, since I hadn't heard or seen them in spring) and used out backyard water feature. And this week, a pair showed up there again. I haven't photographed them yet, but have seen them twice, both male and female.
The male looks like a tropical bird--gaudy as a parrot; the female, though seeming dull in comparison, has a faint iridescent blue-green sheen over her duller green that probably shows up brilliantly in the ultraviolet. These pictures were taken other years, in other locations on the place.
Whoo, those male colours are bright! We don't have anything that bright in Britain (not native, anyway). The female looks rather like a finch (but I can't get any idea of sizes; greenfinches (the most common round here) are around the same size as house sparrows) and would fit in here but the male would stand out.
I've yet to see a Painted Bunting, and I'd really like to. We had a surprise visitor at our place last week: Summer Tanager. I did not get any great pictures as he stayed up in one of our trees, obscured by leaves.
Listen for something that sounds rather like a House Finch's song. Males sing territorially from the tops of trees, often exposed, but are quick to fly into cover. If you aren't overrun by house sparrows, put out some millet seed. It's about the right size for them. They prefer to forage and water in semi-cover but the females become quite tame if you're out there sitting quietly day after day, with feed on the ground and water (running a little, by preference) nearby.
If you can get knotroot bristlegrass growing, that's their ice-cream food--they love those little seeds (about the size of millet.) That may not be possible in a suburban environment. Talk to local birders and Audubon Society about the presence of Painted Buntings in your area and what their local preferences are in habitat.
How do you trap the cow birds? They have taken over our bird feeder and I would rather not have so many here so the other birds can have a better situation.
If you're in Texas, you contact your regional Texas Parks & Wildlife biologist, who will know where and when the next cowbird trapping class will be given. TPWD has a license from the US Fish & Wildlife Service to train cowbird trappers and re-license them (since it's a native bird, and other native birds may end up in the trap, you need a license to handle them, even to free them.) The class teaches recognition of the target species (brown-headed cowbirds), the feed and water requirements while birds are in the trap, the correct placement of the trap, gives you the dimensions and materials list to build the trap (about the size of a small walk-in closet) and teaches you several methods for humane killing of the trapped cowbirds and how to catch and release non-target species.
Then you build the trap, wait for the legal season for trapping, and hope for the best.
If you're not in Texas, contact your state wildlife department (has different names in different states) and see if your state has a cowbird trapping program.
They are beautiful birds. I saw a male at the zoo but none in the wild. I'm not sure if they come as far south as Guadalupe County though. I've mostly seen dove a lot lately. I'm not too good at identifying birds though.
2010-04-30 08:56 pm (UTC)
Last spring a pair came to my sunflower seed feeder for a few weeks. His picture is on my avatar on the 8o acres blog, I think, but not this one (can't remember which avatar shows up where). I had never seen one at a feeder before and was pretty excited.
oops, and then I forgot to sign in and posted (the bunting avatar comment) as "anonymous." sigh. Why can't the computer understand what I MEAN to do, instead of what I tell it to do? Answer -- because it would be infuriating, like some programs where it finishes your words for you, only they are the wrong words.
It's all right. Just mention of your painted bunting picture and I know who you are...HA.
It's really pretty.
Does you feeder have a horizontal surface or do birds cling to the side?
Painted Buntings are lovely birds. The males look like someone had an accident with the paint box when designing them. Our buntings are Indigo Buntings, which are also lovely, but in a much less gaudy way.
Indigos migrate through here, and OTHER people have seen them--but I've seen only one.