Where to see a Colorful, Nearly-Threatened Painted Bunting in Florida

L. Cane

It's easy to see why painted buntings are among the most popular birds for bird watchers. They're arguably beautifully colored, and their shrinking numbers mean that, in some places, they are increasingly rare. But sometimes, you can see and enjoy them in Florida. They have a sweet song and are a member of the cardinalidae or cardinal family. In some cases, you can even attract them to backyard feeders.

Florida is the Only Place Where the Buntings Appear in Three Seasons: According to the Painted Bunting Observer Team Project at the University of North Carolina in Wilmington, the sunshine state is the only place with a bunting breeding population in the spring and summer and also a wintering population. The breeding population occurs in northeast Florida in spring and summer, and the wintering population is found in central and south Florida.

Is the Painted Bunting Endangered?: These birds are not currently endangered, but the International Union for Conservation of Nature considers them "near threatened." And the rapid decline of their population concerns many specialists. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, surveys show a 4-6 percent annual decrease in the birds' numbers. In some areas, the population has fallen more rapidly.

Julie Wraithmell, biologist and wildlife policy coordinator for Audubon of Florida in Tallahassee, told Naples News:

'Painted buntings are a species that we're really concerned about. The Eastern population has exhibited... a long-term, range-wide decline."

Wraithmell says that coastal development has become a big problem for the buntings, and cowbirds steal the buntings' nests. Although it's illegal to own and cage them in the United States, their lovely appearance makes them attractive to the exotic pet trade overseas.

Where Can You See A Painted Bunting?: Here are some places in Florida with several and continuous confirmed sightings of this bird:

Amelia Island: The Island is one of the few places where you can find the bunting during both breeding and winter seasons. Egans Creek Greenway and Fort Clinch State Park are locations where the birds are said to frequent.

Naples: Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is a place mentioned for seeing the wintering buntings. It is said that the birds come to feeders just off the boardwalk from October to April.

Although these places have been mentioned, they are allegedly not the only places where you can see the birds. There is an Instagram post from someone who saw one at the Circle B Bar Reserve in Lakeland.

How to Attract the Painted Bunting to Your Bird Feeder: If you live in the right place at the right time, it's possible to attract a bunting to come to you. According to Audubon Everglades, you should provide white millet and low-lying, dense shrubbery. If possible, use a feeder with a cage to keep out predators since the birds are so colorful. There's an example of a caged feeder on the YouTube Video below:

Some organizations are tracking sightings of the bunting. You can report sightings to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission here.

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