Painted Buntings, Our Most Colorful Visitors!
Welcome back rainbow birds…we’ve missed you! We’re happy you’re back in the Beaufort to brighten our days with your beautiful color and song.
Did you know the Painted bunting is a small brightly-colored member of the cardinal family? It’s true! According to a Native American legend, when the Great Spirit was giving all the birds their colors, he ran short of dye so he gave the very last one, the Painted Bunting, a coat of many colors made from dabs of whatever was left. As an animal spirit, the Painted Bunting represents knowledge and intelligence with an emphasis on utilizing your voice to “sing” your thoughts and speak from your heart. The bunting is a reminder to add color and vitality to your life.
The males are brightly colored with blue, green, red and yellow plumage. Females and juveniles are bright green with pale rings around their eyes. The male Painted Bunting is considered by many to be North America’s most beautiful bird, and they are one of the most popular visitors to bird feeders.
Here’s how you can help keep these flying rainbows in our skies
- Plant native plants and simulate natural vegetative structures and layers in your yard (they love Wax Myrtle!)
- Buy bird-friendly, shade-grown coffee and help protect that wintering habitat!
- Try luring them to your yard by using high-quality white millet in a caged tube feeder—that seems to be their favorite!
- Donate to help support ongoing research efforts by Audubon South Carolina!
Fun Facts about Painted Buntings:
- Painted buntings are one of the most spectacularly colored and visually impressive birds in the United States and are the only U.S. bird with a blue head along with red underparts.
- The species name ‘ceris’ is from the Greek myth that tells about Scylla, a princess who was turned into the sea bird keiris.
- An American Indian legend tells that when the great spirit gave colors to all the birds, he was running out of dye, so the Painted bunting, being the very last one, received plumage of many colors from dabs of the colors that were left.
- The French word ‘nonpareil’, is used for this species. It means “without equal,” and refers to the bird’s splendid plumage.
- Males of this species perform displays of short flights with rapidly beating wings. These may show unique flight patterns, like “butterfly flights”, with slow, deep wing beats and undulating flight, and “moth flights”, a slow descending flight with a wing-quivering display.
Cover photo by Kelley Luikey at Nature Muse Imagery
Story by Ginger Wareham