Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Painted Buntings

Male Painted Bunting
Female Painted Bunting
Female Painted Bunting at Feeder Male Painted Bunting at Feeder
We started with a plan to escape the cold for a long weekend and then added a quest: to see a painted bunting (which also heads south for the winter). We found the Painted Bunting Observer Team and asked:

We're planning a vacation in mid February to somewhere warm. An added bonus would be a location that has painted buntings. Can you recommend a spot that is fairly reliable for this bird.

We quickly got back the following reply.

Well, that is a wonderfully open-ended plan - I am envious of your flexibility!

Painted Buntings are in residence on both coasts of Florida from around the latitude of Orlando south all the way to the Keys. If you have a specific destination in mind, I highly recommend you call the local Audubon that covers that area (http://www.audubon.org/states/index.php?state=FL). In general, there are many State Parks, nature centers and learning centers along the east coast that maintain feeders for Painted Buntings. You could try (in north to south order): the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge near Titusville; Environmental Learning Center in Vero Beach; the Okeeheelee Nature Center in West Palm Beach (I know for sure they have Painted Buntings at their feeders); and Castellow Hammock Preserve south of Miami (Homestead area). On the west coast, Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples has been reporting Painted Buntings at their feeders all winter.

Because Painted Buntings are fairly predictable visitors to the feeder, the staff at any of these facilities should know if they have Painted Buntings, and also at what times of day they are most likely to be feeding (usually dawn to around 8 a.m. and again at dusk). You will definitely improve your chances of seeing one of these beautiful birds if you call ahead!

I hope you have a great adventure, warm up thoroughly, and get to see some of the beautiful birds on your southern travels! Please let me know if I can help you any further! Leah
Leah Fuller
Program Coordinator

We decided upon Naples and headed south. Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is a great spot for birding. We did find the painted buntings, and as an added bonus the pileated woodpeckers were very active, including one that spent 15 minutes extracting insects from a tree near the painted bunting feeder. It took a while to photograph the buntings. They mostly flew straight to the feeders (which are caged to keep the grackles away). The colorful male and the less colorful but also lovely female each had a spot where they would briefly stop and eventually we saw both. You don't want to know how many hours we logged at this task, but at least we were out in the warm weather, and there were a lot of other nice birders around to share stories with.

With the winter weather in New Jersey, we picked the right time to go away, but we're barely back and thinking we may have come back too soon.

Thanks Leah for the suggestions! We had a great time.

P.S. our next quest is the scarlet tanager.

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