Painted Bunting Bird: Our Most Colorful Bird

The Painted Bunting bird is considered North America's most colorful songbird and is found mostly in the southern United States.

While technically not a rare or endangered species, their populations are declining in the east because of habitat loss and predation.

In other areas, populations remain steady or have slight increases.


It's the male Painted Bunting that gets noticed first. He will not get his full adult plumage until his second season some 15 to 18 months after hatching.

With a blue head, red underparts, and light green wings and back. His rump is also red. The length of the bird is about 5 to 5 1/2 inches.

male painted bunting

Male Painted Bunting

What Does A female Painted Buntings Look Like?

There's quite a difference between male and female Painted Buntings. While the males boast vivid blue, green, red, and yellow plumage, the females and immature males are greenish with pale yellow underparts providing the camouflage they need in their habitat.

female painted bunting

Female Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting Bird Song

The male Painted Bunting produces a complex and varied song during the breeding season.

The song comprises a combination of whistles, warbles, and trills, creating a unique and intricate melody. The purpose of the song is primarily to attract a mate, showcasing the male's reproductive fitness.

Territory Defense Call

Painted Buntings also emit a sharp, metallic "chip" or "tink" call, often repeated rapidly. This call serves territorial purposes and is employed during the defense of breeding territories.

Females have softer calls, particularly during interactions within the pair and with nestlings.

Breeding And Nesting Season

The breeding season for Painted Buntings begins in mid-April and can go through August for a second brood.

As migratory birds, Painted Buntings spend their winters in South Florida, parts of Central America, and the Caribbean, then return to their breeding grounds throughout coastal southern U.S. and parts of the Midwest in the spring and summer.

Males arrive on their territories about a week before the females. Asserting their dominance over a previous nesting territory, they sing their song to attract a mate. Once paired, nest site selection and nest building begin.

Where They Nest

Their nesting habits are notable for their preference for dense thickets and shrubby areas, which offer protection from predators and a suitable environment for raising their young.

Males and females participate in nest site selection, but it is the female that builds the nest. Nests are completed in 2 to 5 days.

Painted Bunting Nesting Stats
Painted Bunting Nesting Stats
Eggs 3 - 5
Incubation 11 - 12 days
Nestling Phase 10- 11 days
Broods 1 - 2

The female Painted Bunting weaves together a variety of materials, including grass, leaves, and spiderwebs, forming a cup-shaped structure.

She chooses sites in thick bushes or low branches, often less than 10 feet above ground. It is not uncommon to find Painted Bunting nests hidden in dense vegetation, providing camouflage from potential predators.

The deeply cupped nest is about 3 1/4 inches wide and 2 1/2 inches deep.

Nesting Habits

The female Painted Bunting will lay one egg each day until she completes a clutch of 3 to 5 eggs.

The eggs have a pale blue or dull white background. The large end is heavily speckled with the rest more lightly speckled.

The female is the only one to incubate the eggs. The eggs will hatch in 11 to 12 days.

Once the eggs hatch, the young will stay in the nest for a short 10 to 11 days.

While the young are in the nest the female feeds them. Foods include beetles, caterpillars, and grasshoppers.

After the young leave the nest, the male will continue feeding the fledglings until the young can take care of themselves.

While the male is feeding the young, the female begins a new clutch. She may build a new nest or reuse the first nest.

Painted Bunting Feeding Habits

Painted Bunting birds have a diverse diet that includes a variety of seeds and insects.

Their foraging strategy adapts to the availability of food resources, which changes with the seasons.

During the breeding season, they are especially reliant on insect protein to feed their chicks, favoring caterpillars, spiders, and grasshoppers among other invertebrates.

Geographical Range

map showing the range of the painted bunting
  • Breeding Range: They breed primarily in the southern United States, including states like North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and parts of Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas.
  • Wintering Range: In the winter, they migrate to Central America, South Florida, and the Caribbean.
  • Migration Pathways: Painted Buntings utilize both coastal and inland migration routes.

Preferred Habitat

  • Breeding Habitats: During breeding periods, they prefer thickets, brushy areas, and woodland edges often near water.
  • Non-breeding Habitats: Outside of the breeding season, non-breeding habitats can be found in semi-open habitats, such as scrublands, gardens, and farmlands.

The availability of food sources and nesting sites influences their selection of habitat.

Fall Migration

Painted Buntings migrate to the southeastern United States, including Florida, from their breeding grounds during the fall. They often arrive in Florida by October and stay through the winter months before returning north for the breeding season.

Conservation Status

The Painted Bunting is listed as a species of Least Concern on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

This status indicates that the species is currently not at immediate risk of extinction in the wild.

Despite the protection provided by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in the US and Canada, the Painted Bunting can be legally traded in Mexico, other Central American countries, and Cuba.

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