Yesterday when I went to take the dog for a walk, I was stopped in my tracks by a male painted bunting doing a little dance in the driveway. To me, this looks more like the elaborate dances those tropical birds go through, but I hadn’t seen this in my backyard before! With one hand on the dog’s collar so he wouldn’t interfere, and the other on the camera, I managed some footage of this gorgeous display.
Painted Buntings nest in the maritime forest, and males can be heard all over the island singing and carving out their territories. As you can see in the video below, they winter in the tropics and migrate here in early April for nesting. Although a few winter near feeders in Summerville, most of them will have sought warmer climates by October.
Sometimes I think these are birds that are put together by a committee~ the males are blue and green, red and orange, with some purple in there. Females and young males are green with some blue tints. On our island, the best place to spot them is on the edges of the maritime forest along the road.
Buntings are seed eaters, and you might find them gleaning seeds along the roadsides or you can attract them to a feeder with white millet. I am currently using a cage feeder to keep the grackles out, but I have had them be very happy at tray feeders as well as hopper feeders. I had them in the back yard in North Mount Pleasant as well as the Old Village in Mount Pleasant. Stop by the Wild Birds Unlimited in Mount Pleasant and they’ll get you totally set up.
Because they’re so colorful, they are great birds to watch with kids: one of my youngest’s first words was a version of Painted Bunting.
Researching where they go
You may notice that some of the buntings in these photos are sporting bands: for several years Audubon SC has been banding some of our buntings on the island. After capturing them in a feeder trap, the birds are released within minutes of being caught, measured, weighed and banded. Several from Dewees have been outfitted with Geotransmitters to measure where they spent the winter, and our own Motus tower has picked up a bird with a nanotag that was banded on Kiawah in the fall, spent the winter in the Florida Keys and seems to be making his way further north for the summer.